The drug will reduce the deaths in critically ill patients with respiratory complications.
It has been months since the world has begun its fight against the pandemic. With people losing their lives to the deadly virus, scientists and medical experts across the world are researching to produce an antidote to end the global crisis. The recent reports suggest that we have reached a step closer to finding a life-saving drug.
According to Independent, researchers at the University of Oxford found that a cheap steroid called dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among seriously ill coronavirus patients who exhibit respiratory complications.
The viable drug is found to cut deaths by a fifth for those on oxygen and up to a third for those on ventilators, according to BBC News. For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
The researchers added that the early usage of the drug would have saved approximately 5000 lives.
Inexpensive steroid dexamethasone is the first drug to reduce deaths from covid-19 https://t.co/Rg0wIQdcxw— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 17, 2020
"Based on these results, one death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone," said the researchers in a statement, according to Independent.
Peter Horby, professor of emerging diseases and global health at Oxford University, one of the trial's chief investigators stated that the drug has been around for 60 years and said it was regarded as a "very boring drug". But the new finding he said was "remarkable".
He stated, "We've looked at the numbers and if we treat eight patients in intensive care with this drug, we will save one life. The total cost of treating eight patients is only about £40 ($50). So this really remarkable and we are extremely pleased with this result."
Life-saving coronavirus drug Dexamethasone being used across the NHS from today https://t.co/Ua9aNEP0r0— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) June 17, 2020
Experts stated that the finding came to light after "a randomized group of 2,104 patients was given 6mg of the drug per day for 10 days." Another group, on the other hand, was treated normally. It is important to note that the drug has no effect on people who do not need help breathing.
However, the news was welcomed by the Prime minister, Boris Johnson. "I am proud of these British scientists, backed by UK government funding, who have led the first robust clinical trial anywhere in the world to find a coronavirus treatment proven to reduce the risk of death," said Johnson, according to Independent.
He added that the government will ensure the availability of the drug for NHS. "We've taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak," stated the prime minister. As of now, the UK has about 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile, according to BBC News.
Dexamethasone may be part of the Covid-19 puzzle but it's no magic bullet | Devi Sridhar https://t.co/jh2HIjBYPP— The Guardian (@guardian) June 17, 2020
Other experts from the UK too spoke of breakthrough discovery. Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer claimed it is “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far”. He added, "Significant reduction in mortality in those requiring oxygen or ventilation from a widely available, safe, and well-known drug. Many thanks to those who took part and made it happen. It will save lives around the world,” according to Independent.
The World Health Organization also appreciated the UK researchers and the government for the remarkable finding. "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," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the press release, according to Al Jazeera. He added, "This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support."
This news is particularly in favor of poorer countries stuck with the pandemic crisis. However, courses of dexamethasone, both the oral and injection solution, have been banned for export from the UK. The Department for Health recently clarified that the ban was introduced to prevent companies from buying supplies of the drug from the UK and selling it for higher prices in other countries.
Meanwhile, Nick Cammack, of the Wellcome health foundation, said the drug should be made available for anyone in the world who needed it, irrespective of whether they can pay for it.
"It is highly affordable, easy to make, can be scaled up quickly and only needs a small dosage. This is extremely promising news and a significant step forward, but we still have a long way to go. To end this pandemic, we still need better diagnostics to detect, medicines to treat and vaccines to prevent Covid-19," said Cammack, according to Independent.