Initial reports suggest the drug could have saved between 4,000 to 5,000 lives if it had been used earlier in the pandemic.
Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial, said: “This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost.”
His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone – a generic steroid widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation – is “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly”.
Horby added: “It is a major breakthrough.”
COVID-19 treatments – latest
The latest development comes a day after the announcement that a new drug for preventing lung damage and blood clots in people with coronavirus is set to be trialled in UK hospitals.
According to the research, which is backed by researchers at the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence at Imperial College London, the drug, a molecule known as TRV027, could put a brake on many of the dangerous processes which occur in COVID-19, such as lung damage and blood clots.
The cell pathways targeted by the drug are thought to be major drivers of severe illness in COVID-19.
The pilot trial will involve 60 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, and will follow patients for eight days during the critical period where some patients’ symptoms worsen significantly requiring treatment in ICU and sometimes ventilation.
General tips for reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, self-isolate for at least seven days from when your symptoms started, according to the NHS.
You can stop self-isolating after seven days if either:
- Your symptoms have gone
- You just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these symptoms can last for weeks after the infection has gone
As the NHS explains, keep self-isolating if you still have any of these symptoms after seven days:
- A high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
- A runny nose or sneezing
- Feeling or being sick
- Loss of appetite
“Only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone,” notes the health body.
It adds: “If you have diarrhoea or you’re being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they’ve stopped.”