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COVID-19: Dexamethasone arrives as first life-saving drug

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London: A cheap and widely-used low dose steroid called Dexamethasone has become the first drug shown to be able to save lives among COVID-19 patients in what scientists said is a ‘major breakthrough’ in the Coronavirus pandemic, trial data announced on Tuesday (June 16). The steroid can also be used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital.

Britain’s Health Minister said the state-run health service’s standard hospital treatment for COVID-19 would include the drug from Tuesday afternoon, adding that Britain had stockpiled 200,000 courses of the treatment. The results suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease, said the researchers who led the trials.

“This is a trial for recovery 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,” Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial was quoted as saying to Reuters. His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone was ‘the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly.’

“It is a major breakthrough,” he said. “Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.” 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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