Low-cost, anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone reduces death by up to one third in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications of COVID-19, according to a recent trial data.
The results of the UK-based RECOVERY trial, one of the world's largest randomised trial of drugs to treat COVID-19 patients, were published on June 16. Being termed a "major breakthrough" by experts leading the trial, the results show that dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only.
Calling it a "groundbreaking development", the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said, "This is tremendous news today from the Recovery trial showing that dexamethasone is the first drug to reduce mortality from COVID-19. It is particularly exciting as this is an inexpensive widely available medicine."
The results highlight that administering low doses of the generic steroid dexamethasone to patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 yielded the aforementioned results.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Peter Horby, one of the Chief Investigators for the trial and a professor at Oxford University said: "Dexamethasone 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 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."
"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 severe respiratory complications," said Martin Landray, another Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 431,000 globally.
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