Confirmed! Dexamethasone drug can be 'life-saving' for COVID-19 patients
As the race to develop vaccines and anti-viral treatments for COVID-19 continues, researchers in the UK have confirmed that Dexamethasone, an existing and pretty affordable drug, can prove 'life-saving' for critical cases of the disease. It has been able to reduce mortality by a significant margin in trials, with the results officially being confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here's more about it.
First, what is Dexamethasone?
Dexamethasone is an on-the-shelf steroid that reduces inflammation and helps with the treatment of several conditions, including allergies, asthma, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and certain cancers. It has been available since the 1960s and is widely available at affordable prices across most countries, including developing nations like India. The drug has also been on WHO's Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977.
How it has proven effective?
Dexamethasone is being hailed as 'life-saving' on the basis of results observed in RECOVERY (Randomized Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) clinical trials in the UK. The tests, aimed at exploring different therapies, tried the steroid on 2,104 patients and found that it can reduce mortality by a third for seriously ill patients on ventilator and by a fifth for those needing oxygen support.
Here's what happened in the trial
In the trial, the 2,104 patients were given a 6mg dose of Dexamethasone once per day for 10 days and the recovery of the patients was compared with that of 4,321 patients getting only the usual care.
No benefit for people with milder form of the disease
While the drug appeared to help seriously ill COVID-19 patients, those with a milder form of the disease and no respiratory support did not show any signs of improvement when treated with the steroid. Still, this is a major breakthrough; the team involved in the trial says the results show the drug could prevent at least one death in 8 ventilated patients.
This is great news, said WHO Director-General
"This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support. This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough."
Note: Full results are yet to be assessed
That said, it must be noted that these promising figures are a part of the initial results shared by the team in the UK. The researchers will publish full details in the coming days, following which "WHO will coordinate a meta-analysis to increase our overall understanding of this intervention" and update clinical guidance on how and when the drug should be used for COVID-19.