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South West hospitals contribute to research breakthrough which could save lives for patients hospitalised with COVID-19

South West hospitals contribute to research breakthrough which could save lives for patients hospitalised with COVID-19

A national COVID-19 trial supported by seven NHS Trusts across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset has found that a commonly used and readily available steroid drug can reduce the risk of death in patients admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

In March this year the RECOVERY Trial began testing a range of potential COVID-19 treatments that are already in use for other purposes, because of early evidence that they could provide a benefit. Over 11,500 participants have been enrolled in the study so far from across the UK.

One of the drugs tested as part of the trial was a low dose of a steroid called dexamethasone which is commonly used to reduce inflammation. Dexamethasone has now been shown to reduce the risk of dying by one-third in ventilated patients and by one-fifth in patients receiving oxygen only. There was no benefit among those who did not need respiratory support, meaning it has no use for people who have COVID-19 but were not admitted to hospital.

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

Dr Michael Gibbons, Clinical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, said:

“These findings are a game-changer in the search for therapies to treat COVID-19; we now have a medicine with which to treat our patients, this is a massive step forward.  The search must now continue for further therapies that will provide additional benefit.  Importantly, these results demonstrate the benefit of research, randomised clinical trials, in generating knowledge and truth about the benefits or otherwise, of the treatments we use.  As a region, we must be proud of our contribution to this landmark study. Research in the COVID-19 era has highlighted the importance of team working across the clinical and research interface, and the need to embed research and clinical trials as a standard aspect of clinical care.”

This trial was supported by seven NHS Trusts in the South West:

Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and Chief Investigator for the trial, 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.”

Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, and Deputy Chief Investigator, said: “Since the appearance of COVID-19 six months ago, the search has been on for treatments that can improve survival, particularly in the sickest patients. These preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear – dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with respiratory complications. COVID-19 is a global disease – it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide.”

For more information on the ongoing RECOVERY Trial please visit:


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