Dexamethasone for COVID-19 Patients
Life-Saving Covid-19 Breakthrough
Finally, we have some good news with a “major breakthrough” in the coronavirus pandemic as scientists have found the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of COVID-19 patients, a cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone.
A Major Breakthrough
Dexamethasone is a steroid drug typically used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis. The trial results announced on Tuesday showed that dexamethasone reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients.
The researchers who led the trials suggest that the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of pandemic disease as their preliminary results, which have not been peer-reviewed, showed promising effects and they said they would work to publish the full details of the trial as soon as possible.
Wasting no time, export restrictions had been introduced and 200,000 courses of the treatment had been stockpiled, and Britain’s health ministry has approved the drug for use in the state-run health service.
An Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial, Martin Landray said, “This is a trial result which shows that when the drug dexamethasone is given to COVID-19 patients, who are on ventilators or are on oxygen, at a remarkably low cost, the drug is capable of saving lives. The drug can treat eight patients and save a life for less than 50 pounds ($63).
Peter Horby, his co-lead investigator, called dexamethasone “a major breakthrough.”
So far, only Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O) remdesivir was seen to shorten the recovery time for hospital patients and no other treatment for COVID-19 has been shown to reduce the mortality of the disease.
A professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Dr. Mark Wurfel said, “Considering the terms of the effect size and the kind of effect, this blows remdesivir out of the water.”
He added saying that this is about to be the largest effect size that we’ve ever seen given its magnitude of improvement in mortality for a critically ill population and cautioned that it is important for the data to be released and reviewed.
The RECOVERY trial (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) carried out at the University of Oxford compared outcomes of around 4,300 patients who did not get the steroid with those of around 2,100 patients who were randomly assigned to get the steroid.
A total of 4321 patients randomized to usual care alone were compared with the 2104 randomized patients receiving 6 mg dexamethasone once per day (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for ten days.
Based on these results, 1 death would be prevented by the treatment of around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone or 8 ventilated patients.
An honorary professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Birmingham, Robin Ferner said, “For doctors to confidently put the treatment into practice, we hope the data on which these results are based will be published at the earliest.”
At the Northwell hospitals, New York’s largest healthcare system, physicians have been using steroids on a case-by-case basis because they can suppress patients’ immune systems and possibly make them susceptible to other infections, said the deputy physician-in-chief at Northwell Health, Dr. Thomas McGinn. He added that the data could spread the use of steroids in the sickest COVID-19 patients if it is peer-reviewed and legitimized.
Currently, dexamethasone is one of the drugs in shortage on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list. Germany’s Fresenius SE (FREG.DE), one of the largest suppliers, and other suppliers say that they have the drug on the hand.
A Fresenius spokesman said, “To keep up sufficient deliveries, we will seek to increase supply volumes or even production.”
It was also noted from the trail that there was no benefit from treatment with dexamethasone among the patients with COVID-19 who did not require respiratory support.