The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it welcomes the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom which indicates that dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19. Dexamethasone is a steroid-based medication which works by suppressing the immune system, which has been in existence since the 1960s. It is a commonly used, inexpensive drug. Seriously ill COVID-19 patients suffering from the worst complications of the illness, such as breathing difficulties have their own immune system over-responding to the virus which in turn also attacks their healthy cells such as those in the lungs. link
Fergus Walsh, Medical Correspondent with the BBC reports that Dexamethasone “cuts the risk of death for patients on a ventilator by a third, and for those on oxygen by a fifth”. link. Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister lauded the research into Dexamethasone as “a chink of light” against the COVID-19 pandemic, but emphasised that the treatment does not negate the current social distancing rules. link
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough.” link
Dexamethasone has shown to be of benefit to patients who were ventilated and seriously ill with COVID-19. This benefit was not seen in patients with milder symptoms of the disease. The drug has been tested on approximately 2,000 hospital bound COVID-19 patients. The results show that Dexamethasone has significantly reduced deaths amongst patients who were seriously ill with COVID-19. The results have now been fast-tracked and shared amongst the medical profession so that patients in other countries can benefit from these findings.