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Scientists say first life-saving drug against COVID-19 is already here


Could be promising

Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

United Kingdom researchers say the drug dexamethasone — a low-dose steroid treatment that's been on the market since the 1960s — is helping to save the lives of people diagnosed with the coronavirus.

What are the details?

On Tuesday, the BBC reported that the drug — which is inexpensive and widely available — is among one of several drugs taking part in trial testing.

Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid hormone, is generally prescribed for medical conditions such as arthritis, immune system disorders, breathing issues, certain cancers, and other inflammatory-related ailments.

The BBC reported that using dexamethasone in critical COVID-19 patients "cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators."

"For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth," the outlet added.

The drug was included in a trial led by a team of scientists from Oxford University. The drug was given to about 2,000 patients, and results were compared to at least 4,000 patients who did not receive the drug.

Chief investigator professor Peter Horby said, "This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality — and it reduces it significantly. It's a major breakthrough."

Lead researcher professor Martin Landray said that the suggested course of treatment while using dexamethasone is 10 days.

"[I]t costs about £5 per patient," he added, which is $6.28. "So essentially, it costs £35 to save a life."

Landray added, "This is a 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."

What else?

When appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, Landray said, adding that people should not buy it to take at home.

In a statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who suffered through a COVID-19 diagnosis earlier this year — said that such a discovery is a "remarkable British scientific achievement."

"We have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies," he added, "even in the event of a second peak."

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