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First drug identified to reduce COVID-19 deaths

First drug identified to reduce COVID-19 deaths

The first drug to improve survival in COVID-19 patients has been identified by University of Oxford researchers.

Dexamethasone, a steroid already used to reduce inflammation, reduced the risk of dying by a third in ventilated patients and a fifth in those receiving oxygen only. There was no benefit among those who did not need respiratory support.

Based on these results, one death would be prevented by treatment of seven ventilated patients or 20 patients on oxygen.

Dexamethasone is among treatments being trialled in the RECOVERY trial in hospitalised UK COVID-19 patients.

The delivery of the trial has been coordinated by the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands. More than 11,500 have taken part in 175 NHS hospitals.

A total 2,104 patients were randomly allocated dexamethasone once a day for ten days and compared with 4,321 patients randomly allocated usual care alone. Full results will be published soon.

Professor Peter Horby, the trial’s Chief Investigator, said: “This is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result.

“The survival benefit is clear and quite large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so this treatment should become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is cheap, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

The trial is supported by a grant to the University of Oxford from UK Research and Innovation/National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and by core funding provided by NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Wellcome, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Department for International Development, Health Data Research UK, the Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit and NIHR Clinical Trials Unit Support Funding.

Read more at the University of Oxford's website.