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Steroid drug hailed as 'breakthrough' for seriously ill COVID-19 patients

CoronavirusJun 16, 2020 02:36PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19 2/2

By Kate Kelland and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) - A cheap and widely-used steroid called dexamethasone has become the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of COVID-19 patients in what scientists said is a "major breakthrough" in the coronavirus pandemic.

Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

The preliminary results, which have not been peer-reviewed, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease, said the researchers who led the trials.

They said they would work to publish the full details of the trial as soon as possible, with some scientists saying they wished to review the evidence for themselves.

Britain's health ministry wasted no time, saying the drug had been approved for use in the state-run health service, export restrictions had been introduced and 200,000 courses of the treatment had been stockpiled.

"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 Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial.

"It's going to be very hard for any drug really to replace this, given that for less than 50 pounds ($63), you can treat eight patients and save a life," he said in an online briefing.

His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, called dexamethasone "a major breakthrough."

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 431,000 people globally.

DRUG AVAILABILITY

England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said Tuesday's announcement was "the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far."

His deputy, Jonathan Van-Tam, said the results highlighted the importance of properly conducted clinical trials and robust data.

The RECOVERY trial compared outcomes of around 2,100 patients who were randomly assigned to get the steroid, with those of around 4,300 patients who did not get it.

"We hope the data on which these results are based will be published as soon as possible so that doctors can confidently put the treatment into practice," said Robin Ferner, honorary professor of clinical pharmacology at University of Birmingham.

The results suggest one death would be prevented by treatment with dexamethasone in every eight ventilated COVID-19 patients, Landray said, and one death would be prevented in every 25 COVID-19 patients that received the drug and were on oxygen.

Dr. Thomas McGinn, deputy physician-in-chief at Northwell Health, New York's largest healthcare system, told Reuters that physicians at Northwell hospitals have been using steroids on a case-by-case basis because they can suppress patients’ immune systems and possibly make them susceptible to other infections.

He said that if the data is peer-reviewed and legitimized, it could spread the use of steroids in the sickest COVID-19 patients.

"Across the country now intensivists have been using it based on their judgment calls. If this is legitimate, you may find ... instead of say five out of 10 intensive-care COVID patients getting it, maybe everybody would get it," McGinn said.

Dexamethasone is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's list of drugs in shortage, but several manufacturers, including the largest supplier to the United States, say it is available.

Among patients with COVID-19 who did not require respiratory support, there was no benefit from treatment with dexamethasone.

Steroid drug hailed as 'breakthrough' for seriously ill COVID-19 patients
 

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Comments (14)
Ethan Tara
Ethan Tara Jul 08, 2020 4:13AM ET
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It was not known then how dangerous cigarettes were for us, and it seemed everybody smoked but i was able to get rid of my COPD lung condition through the help of total cure herbal foundation my husband bought, Multivitamin Herbal Care has the right herbal formula to help you get rid and repair your lungs and cure you totally with their natural organic herbs. I wish anybody who starts smoking at a young age would realize what will eventually happen to their bodies if they continue that vile habit throughout their life,it advisable to always try natural herbs at first because www .multivitamincare .org neutralize my COPD which surprise everyone at home.
Pwr Strk
Pwr Strk Jun 17, 2020 3:43AM ET
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so who produces this thing?
Susan Tutt
Susan Tutt Jun 16, 2020 2:12PM ET
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I take dexamethasone for neuralgia headaches. Works effectively on the pain. Patients should take for as as short a duration as possible to avoid moonface and weight gain. I usually only take 1-2 per incident. Hope this works for Covid!
Notvery Goodathis
Peteymcletey Jun 16, 2020 12:59PM ET
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So it will reduce deaths by like how many thousand? 5? 10? It's good news, but misleading headline
Nick Smith
Nick Smith Jun 16, 2020 12:22PM ET
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It reduces deaths on ventilators from 40% to 28%.Good news but not a game changer people wont be celebrating in the streets..
Muhamed Jaffir
Muhamed Jaffir Jun 16, 2020 12:22PM ET
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it reduces deaths of those on oxygen as well.
Nick Smith
Nick Smith Jun 16, 2020 12:22PM ET
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Yes from 25% to 20% from memory.
Robert Crocker
Robert Crocker Jun 16, 2020 11:53AM ET
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Since the pneumonia from covid 19 is what causes the massive inflamatory response that essentially drowns the pt, any antiinflamatory drugs should help. Inhaled steroids should be most effective, along with mast cell stabilzer medications. Buuuttt, no profit for pharma in these drugs. Simplest most bang for the buck is getting vit D3 levels up to at least 50-60 range, supplementing with Zinc and taking high dose vit C. Good luck to all and be sure to get some good aerobic excercise daily, taking in good deep breaths.
stats con chris
stats con chris Jun 16, 2020 11:24AM ET
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wait isnt steroid a crean? lol.. i didnt know you can eat dexamethasone. im ignorant here
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jun 16, 2020 11:24AM ET
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U take a shot. It is cortisone family. Cortisone is release when u r stress. U cant eat them.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jun 16, 2020 11:24AM ET
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The body release morphine(high) when u ‘win’. Release cortisone to give u ‘power’ to deal w pain when u r stress.
Edward Chong
Edward Chong Jun 16, 2020 11:07AM ET
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i am wondering why isnt the mkt reacting to this??? since is hail as breakthrough.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jun 16, 2020 11:07AM ET
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They need more trials. Steroid always create some kind of heart beat irregular.
munnu jay
munnu jay Jun 16, 2020 10:48AM ET
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good
Tim ZZ
Tim ZZ Jun 16, 2020 10:25AM ET
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still waiting on that HCQ and Zinc double blind trial but had to be used early first day to 2 of sickness. Just like tamaflu. All trails so far are with no zinc or after hospitalizations. which would be 7 to 14 days into sickness. it only helps stop the replication of the virus so once you're so sick it's of no use.
 
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