Oxford scientists claimed to have discovered the first life-saving drug for the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in a major breakthrough in the fight against deadly COVID-19 that has engulfed the world, affecting over 8 million people.
According to the University of Oxford researchers, dexamethasone, is a cheap and widely available drug and can effectively reduce the death risk among patients suffering from severe respiratory complications.
"Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result," Peter Horby, one of the chief investigators of the trial from the University of Oxford in the UK said.
Scientists have said that the drug can minimise the risk of deaths by a third for coronavirus patients on ventilators, and by a fifth for those on oxygen.
The trial involved more than 11,500 patients, enrolled from more than 175 hospitals in the UK, a statement by the University of Oxford said.
The drug costs about £5 per patient and is given either as a tablet or an injection.
In the trial, about 2,104 patients were chosen to receive dexamethasone 6 milligrammes once each day, either by mouth or by intravenous injection, for ten days. The participants were then compared with 4321 patients given usual treatment alone.
The researchers found that for patients on ventilators, the drug slashed the death risk from 40 per cent to 28 per cent and for those requiring oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.
"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," Horby said.
The drug is available globally and can be used immediately to save lives across the world.
Martin Landray, another chief investigator of the trial from the University of Oxford, said that "these preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear that dexamethasone can help save lives of patients who are severely ill with COVID-19."
The drug, however, does not help patients with milder symptoms of COVID-19 infection.