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Coronavirus: Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug – BBC News


A cheap and widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.
The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough within the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say.


The drug is a component of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to ascertain if they also work for coronavirus.

It cut the danger of death by a 3rd for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.
Had the drug had been used to treat patients within the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.

And it might be of big benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

The UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile and says the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was a real case to celebrate “a remarkable British scientific achievement”, adding: “We have taken steps to make sure we've enough supplies, even within the event of a second peak.

Chief medic for England Prof Chris Whitty said it would save lives around the world.
About 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital.

Of those who are admitted, most also recover but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
And these are the high-risk patients dexamethasone appears to assist .
The drug is already used to reduce inflammation during a range of other conditions, including arthritis, asthma and a few skin conditions.

And it appears to assist stop a number of the damage which will happen when the body’s system goes into overdrive because it tries to repel coronavirus.
This over-reaction, a cytokine storm , are often deadly.

In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University , about 2,000 hospital patients got dexamethasone and compared with quite 4,000 who weren't.
For patients on ventilators, it cut the danger of death from 40% to twenty-eight .

For patients needing oxygen, it cut the danger of death from 25% to twenty .
Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug to date that has been shown to scale back mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a serious breakthrough.

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray said the findings suggested one life can be saved for each eight patients on a ventilator every 20-25 treated with oxygen
There is a transparent , clear benefit,” he said.

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.

When appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it at once , Prof Landray said.
But people shouldn't go out and buy it to take at home.

Dexamethasone doesn't appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who don't need help with their breathing.

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