Wednesday 17 June 2020 7:56 am

'Best news so far': Matt Hancock hails steroid drug that can combat coronavirus

Health secretary Matt Hancock today hailed the use of a steroid drug called dexamethasone for treating coronavirus patients as the best news so far of the outbreak.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

“It does increase your chances of survival quite significantly,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News. “It is one of the best pieces of news we’ve had through this whole crisis.”

He said that the R-rate was below 1 in all regions but did not clarify if he was speaking about England or the entire United Kingdom.

Yesterday the government gave the green light for the NHS to begin using dexamethasone immediately to treat coronavirus patients.

That followed an Oxford University clinical trial showing the steroid drug reduced the risk of death significantly in patients badly struck by coronavirus.

Read more: UK scientists make ‘major breakthrough’ as common steroid found to cut coronavirus death rate

The anti-inflammatory steroid drug has now been approved to treat all UK hospitalised coronavirus patients requiring oxygen, including those on ventilators. 

The dexamethasone trial is the first anywhere in the world to show a treatment significantly impacts coronavirus mortality.

The government had already moved to stockpile the drug, meaning it has enough to treat more than 200,000 people. Hancock has said it could save thousands of lives.