A lifesaving drug called dexamethasone can be used to save coronavirus patients who are very sick with the virus. This is a major breakthrough in the fight against covid-19.
According to researchers, if the drug had been used to treat covid-19 patients in UK from the beginning, over 5000 lives could have been saved.
The drug is cheap and could be used in struggling countries that have high numbers of coronavirus.
The drug is most effective in saving critically ill patients who may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation as their bodies fight off coronavirus.
It stops damage to the body when the immune system works hard to fight covid-19.
However, it does not seem to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus or those who don’t need help with breathing.
Dexamethasone is not a new drug. It has been in use for years in reducing inflammation in a range of other conditions.
The drug’s effectiveness was discovered during a clinical trial led by a team from Oxford University.
Approximately 2000 patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with 4000 people who did not receive the drug.
The drug reduce death rate of people on ventilators from 40% to 28%. For patients who needed oxygen, the risk of death was reduced from 25% to 20%.
Chief investigator Professor Peter Horby says dexamethasone is the only coronavirus drug that is known to reduce covid-19 death rates.
“There is a clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available,” he said.
Before the breakthrough, there have been other drugs suggested to help with covid-19.
Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine had been earlier suggested but was withdrawn amid concerns that it causes fatalities and heart problems.
Remdesivir drug reduces the recovery time for covid-19 patients and has already been made available on the NHS.