Low-cost steroid may be breakthrough in cutting coronavirus deaths, researchers say


A steroid can be used to treat some coronavirus patients, scientists said.

James Martin/CNET

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Scientists at the UK’s University of Oxford said Tuesday they’ve found that a low-cost, common drug significantly reduced coronavirus-related deaths in a 6,000-patient trial. Dexamethasone, a steroid, cut down deaths in patients receiving ventilation by one-third, they said. In patients getting oxygen treatment, it reduced deaths by one-fifth.

The drug didn’t appear to help patients who aren’t receiving respiratory support.

Britain’s National Health Service will work the drug into its standard COVID-19 treatment starting Tuesday, according to UK health secretary Matt Hancock. The government has 200,000 doses available now, having stockpiled it for months.

“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,” Professor Peter Horby, one of the lead researchers, said in a release. “Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

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