INTERNATIONAL DESK: British researchers today said they found the first drug — Dexamethasone — proven” to cut COVID-19 deaths which could be of huge benefit of poorer countries with high infection rates because of its low cost.
“It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth,” BBC reported concerned experts in UK.
The Reuters news agency, meanwhile, quoting England’s chief medical officer Chris called the development “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far”.
“It will save lives around the world,” Whitty said.
Researchers familiar with the study said had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic at least 5,000 lives could have been saved calling it the “first drug proven to cut Covid-19 deaths” under a global study.
“This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” chief investigator of the study Professor Peter Horby told an online media briefing.
Horby’s associate in the research Prof. Martin Landray of Oxford University, supplemented him saying, “this is a (trial) 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,” said Landray who is co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial.
BCC commented that the first drug proven to cut COVID-19 deaths “is not some new, expensive medicine but an old, cheap-as-chips steroid”.
According to the international media reports the drug is part of the “world’s biggest trial testing existing treatment” to see its effectiveness against coronavirus.
The development came as the latest tally of Johns Hopkins University suggested the updated figure of coronavirus cases to be over 8 million worldwide while the virus killed more than 431,000 people globally, so far.
The report said the drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and it appears that it helps stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.
About 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital and of those who are admitted to hospital, most also recover, but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
“These are the high-risk patients whom dexamethasone appears to help,” the report said.
An Oxford University team carried out the drug’s trial around 2,000 hospital patients who were compared with more than 4,000 others who did not receive the drug.
“For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%,” the report read.
Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray says the findings suggest that for “every eight patients treated on ventilators, you could save one life (and) for those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug”.
“There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about o5 per patient. So essentially it costs o35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available,” Landray said.
He said when appropriate, “hospital patients should now be given it without delay, but people should not go out and buy it to take at home” as Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus.
The Recovery Trial was launched in March as a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, including low-dose dexamethasone and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine
Experts later ditched Hydroxychloroquine amid concerns that it increases fatalities and heart problems but another anti-viral drug called remdesivir, however, appears to shorten recovery time for COVID-19 patients.
“That is something (Dexamethasone) to celebrate because it means patients across the world could benefit immediately. That’s why the top-line results of this trial have been rushed out – because the implications are so huge globally,” commented the BBC report.
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