A common steroid has been labelled a “major breakthrough” in the fight against coronavirus by researchers after trials showed it cut the risk of death for those patients on ventilators by a third.
The drug, which is called dexamethasone, is widely available, and scientists said it would be “instantly affordable” worldwide.
The results of the trial showed that the drug reduced the death rate of those on ventilators from 41 per cent to 28 per cent, and of those requiring oxygen from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.
Based on the results, for every 8 ventilated patients treated with the drug one life would be saved.
Likewise, one in every 25 patients requiring oxygen would be survive through the use of the drug alone.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the findings were “the most important trial result” for the disease so far.
The Recovery trial was carried out by scientists at the University of Oxford and involved a total of 2104 patients.
Professor Peter Horby, one of the trial’s chief investigators, said that the drug should now become the “standard care” for those sick enough to need oxygen.
He said: “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result.
“The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients.
“Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide”.
Fellow chief investigator Professor Martin Landray agreed, saying it was “fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide”.
The scientists said that the full results of the trial would be made available as soon as possible.
Nick Cammack of the Welcome Trust called the results of the trial “remarkable”.
“Potentially preventing 1 death in every 8 ventilated patients would be remarkable”, he said.
“Finding effective treatments like this will transform the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on lives and economies across the world.