Widely available steroid effective in improving survival rate of several ill coronavirus patients

An imminent study out of England shows a common steroid improves survival rate of severely ill coronavirus patients

Last Updated:
June 16, 2020 - 11:51am

A widely available steroid called dexamethasone is showing promise in reducing deaths in severely ill, hospitalized coronavirus patients. 

Scientists in England made the announcement Tuesday, saying that they would publish the results of their study shortly. The study involved nearly 6,500 people, of whom 2,104 received the drug. 

The study shows that the steroid reduced deaths in up to one-third of the patients receiving it. The drug primarily helped patients who were being treated with respirators, and to a lesser extent, those who were being treated with supplemental oxygen. 

Dexamethasone did not appear to help patients who were less ill.

"The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide," said study leader Peter Horby.

Steroids typically reduce inflammation, which can develop while the body is fighting coronavirus, as the immune system overreacts to combat the infection. The overreaction, however, can be fatal, which has led to doctors testing steroids and other anti-inflammatory options in those cases. 

The researchers think that the steroid could prevent one death for every eight patients on respirators, and one for every 25 patients being given extra oxygen.

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