An analysis of seven international trials found on Wednesday, August 2, found that treating critically ill COVID-19 patients with corticosteroid drugs reduces the risk of death by 20%. This has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to update its advice on treatment.
The analysis pooled data from separate trials of low dose hydrocortisone, dexamethasone and methylprednisolone. As per the analysis, steroids can improve survival rates of COVID-19 patients whose health demands that they be put in intensive care in hospital.
"This is equivalent to around 68% of (the sickest COVID-19) patients surviving after treatment with corticosteroids, compared to around 60% surviving in the absence of corticosteroids," the researchers said in a statement.
According to Janet Diaz, the WHO's clinical care lead, they have updated their advice to include a "strong recommendation" for use of steroids in patients who are suffering from severe coronavirus infection.
"The evidence shows that if you give corticosteroids ...(there are) 87 fewer deaths per 1,000 patients," she told a WHO social media live event. "Those are lives ... saved."
"Steroids are a cheap and readily available medication, and our analysis has confirmed that they are effective in reducing deaths amongst the people most severely affected by COVID-19," Jonathan Sterne, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at Britain's Bristol University who worked on the analysis, told the briefing.
The trials were conducted by researchers in Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Spain, and the United States, NDTV reported. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"These results are clear, and instantly usable in clinical practice," said Martin Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, who was a key part of the analysis. "Among critically ill patients with COVID-19, low-dose corticosteroids ... significantly reduce the risk of death."
Researchers found that the benefit was shown whether or not the patients were put on ventilation when their treatment began. The WHO's guidelines would be immediately updated to reflect the fresh results.
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