New data from the UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY has now shown that giving low doses of the generic steroid drug dexamethasone to patients with COVID-19 reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection.
The results, which are being described as a major breakthrough, has caused study authors to suggest that the drug should immediately become the standard medicine being prescribed for patients who are being treated in hospitals for the pandemic.
According to a report in BBC, dexamethasone is already used to reduce inflammation in a number of other conditions and has been found to stop some of the damage when the body goes into the deadly cytokine storm while trying to fight coronavirus.
According to the report, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 others who did not receive the drug. Study authors found that it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28% for patients on ventilators. For those needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
Dexamethasone, which has been used since the early 1960s to treat a wide range of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, is a prescription medication that is available as an oral tablet, oral solution, eye drops, and eardrops.
The oral tablet is used to treat conditions that cause inflammation, conditions related to immune system activity and hormone deficiency. It belongs to a class of drugs called steroids.
According to a report by Associated Press, steroid drugs reduce inflammation, which sometimes develops in COVID-19 patients. This happens because the immune system overreacts to fight the infection. This can prove fatal and thus doctors have been testing steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs in patients who have a severe case of coronavirus.
In cases of inflammation, sometimes the immune system becomes overactive leading to damage of the body's tissues, steroids such as dexamethasone help block the immune system’s response to inflammation. Furthermore, in people with adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal gland releases lower amounts of certain hormones and dexamethasone helps replace these hormones.