Dexamethasone, a cheap steroid that is an anti-inflammatory used to treat arthritis, severe allergies, and asthma, has been hailed as a "major breakthrough" in the fight against COVID-19 by scientists, Reuters reports.
The breaking news comes after it was announced on Tuesday that the drug was able to reduce deaths by up to a third among 2,100 severely ill patients on ventilators.
'The drug should be used as standard care'
The researchers claim that the drug should be immediately used as standard care for such patients.
Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, stated, "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.
"It’s going to be very hard for any drug really to replace this, given that for less than 50 pounds ($63.26), you can treat eight patients and save a life."
Moreover, the researchers also stated that dexamethasone was the only drug investigated so far that has shown to reduce mortality this significantly.
Already available in NHS hospitals
Peter Horby, the co-lead investigator, added, "It is a major breakthrough. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide."
This is exciting news since there are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 yet. The only other drug that has shown promise for treating COVID-19 is remdesivir, an experimental antiviral treatment that has been effective during the infection’s onset.
This £5 steroid, which is already available in NHS hospitals, will be rolled out within 24 hours and might change the course of the pandemic.
'Countless lives will be saved globally'
Nick Cammack, an expert on COVID-19 at the Wellcome Trust global health charity, stated that these findings would "transform the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives and economies across the world."
He stated, "Countless lives will be saved globally."
UPDATE June 16: WHO welcomes preliminary results about dexamethasone
The World Health Organization welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the U.K. that show dexamethasone can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General stated, "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, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough."
UPDATE June 17: U.S. doctors remain skeptical of reported COVID-19 dexamethasone breakthrough
The breakthrough has left some doctors skeptical due to the recent withdrawal of an influential COVID-19 study. Many doctors from around the globe are wanting to see more data.
Researchers in Britain stated they would work to publish full details as soon as possible. However, professor of Medicine Dr. Mark Wurfel from the University of Washington stated the researchers should publish data before the official publication happens.
"That would be very, very helpful in terms of helping us align our patient populations with theirs and decide whether it’s appropriate to apply this therapy to our patients."