Coronavirus deaths reduced by up to a third using 'breakthrough' dexamethasone drug, trial finds

Scientists claim to have found “a major breakthrough” in treating coronavirus patients with the use of the drug dexamethasone.

The death rate of those on a ventilator who were given dexamethasone was reduced by around a third in comparison to the group given standard care.

Patients given dexamethasone and who were not on a ventilator saw death rates drop by a fifth in comparison to standard care.

The risk of death was cut from 40 per cent to 28 per cent for patients on ventilators. For those in need of oxygen, the risk of death was reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

Professor Martin Landray said the findings suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, one life could be saved if the patient is given dexamethasone.

However there was no benefit to patients who did not require respiratory support, the trial found.

Dexamethasone, a steroid which has been around for around 60 years, was trialled on around 2,104 patients and compared to 4,321 others who received standard care.

Peter Horby, leader of the RECOVERY trial, called their findings "a major breakthrough", while the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the results were "tremendous".

During the trial, which concluded on June 8, patients received a low dose of 6mg per day by mouth or injection for 10 days.

  • Prof Landray explains the groundbreaking new findings

Professor Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result.

“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.”

  • Matt Hancock praises dexamethasone breakthrough

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “This is tremendous news today from the Recovery trial showing that dexamethasone is the first drug to reduce mortality from COVID-19. It is particularly exciting as this is an inexpensive widely available medicine.

“This is a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease, and the speed at which researchers have progressed finding an effective treatment is truly remarkable. It shows the importance of doing high quality clinical trials and basing decisions on the results of those trials.”

Sir Patrick Vallance has hailed the breakthrough study. Credit: PA

Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, one of the Chief Investigators, said: "Since the appearance of COVID-19 six months ago, the search has been on for treatments that can improve survival, particularly in the sickest patients.

"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."

Over 11,500 patients have been enrolled from over 175 NHS hospitals in the UK.