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Dexamethasone cut deaths by 35% in ventilated COVID-19 patients

As of this morning – Wednesday June 17 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has reached 298,136 with 41,969 deaths.

Data from the UK’s RECOVERY trial show that dexamethasone significantly reduced deaths in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 and severe respiratory complications.

In the trial, a total of 2,104 patients were randomised to receive dexamethasone 6mg once per day for ten days and were compared with 4,321 patients randomised to usual care alone.

Among those who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41%), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25%), and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13%).

According to the results, dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only.

Researchers said that based on the findings, one death would be prevented for every eight ventilated patients treated, or around one in 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.

There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support.

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result,” commented Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and one of the chief investigators for the trial.

“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,” he added.

“These preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear – dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications. COVID-19 is a global disease – it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide,” added Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, also one of the trial’s chief investigators.

The RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) is assessing a range of potential treatments for COVID-19. Over 11,500 patients have been enrolled so far, from over 175 NHS hospitals across the UK.