World's first COVID-19 treatment drug used in Leicester and Derbyshire

The world's first coronavirus treatment drug has been used on coronavirus patients at hospitals in Leicester and Derbyshire.

Dexamethasone - a low-dose steroid - has been hailed a breakthrough treatment by a Leicester medic who was part of the research that found it is the first drug to reduce deaths from coronavirus.

In March 2020, the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 therapy) trial was established as a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, including low-dose dexamethasone.

Researchers on the trial found that the drug reduced the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it reduced deaths by a fifth.

The Prime Minister confirmed that Leicester recruited more patients to take part in the national clinical trial than any other area in the country.

500

patients at one of Leicester's three hospitals took part in the trial.

120

patients at hospitals ran by University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust took part

Almost 500 patients who were treated at one of Leicester's three acute hospitals - Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hosptial and Glenfield Hospital - signed up to take part in the research.

The professor of respiratory medicines at Leicester's hospitals says figures suggest that the drug has already saved lives in the city.

120 patients from hospitals ran by University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust also took part in the trial.

The steroid, normally used to treat asthma, chronic lung conditions and joint problems, can be given as a tablet or injection. It is affordable and readily available not only in this country but all over the world.

Dexamethasone has been tested as part of the Recovery trial. Credit: PA

"Because of the way the trial runs I can't definitively say that lives have been saved in Leicester, but we are the biggest recruiter and we have been trialling the drug here so I would be surprised if lives in Leicester haven't been saved.

Professor Chris Brightling, Respiratory medicines

We’re very pleased to be playing our part in this on-going trial and to have contributed to the generation of this lifesaving new knowledge. Research and Development is an important part of the Trust and we wanted to make sure Derby and Burton was at the forefront in finding drugs that could improve the outcomes for our patients and across the world. We will continue to support national research projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d like to thank all those patients who agreed to take part in the trial and for the commitment of our staff in recruiting 120 patients.”

Dr Teresa Grieve, Assistant Director of Research & Development at UHDB

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know