Patients around the world might have a fighting chance against the deadly coronavirus given there’s a cheap and widely available drug that can help save their lives. The drug, dexamethasone, is said to be administered in a low dose as a steroid treatment in the fight and this has been confirmed by medical experts in the UK. The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for the virus.
Researchers say that had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the beginning of the pandemic then up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, the drug could also have been of great benefit for countries that harbour high cases of infection. The UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile and says the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients. UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there was now reason to celebrate and that the UK had taken steps to ensure it have enough supplies to last a second wave of the pandemic.
In every 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital. Those who get admitted also recover but they need to be put under oxygen or mechanical ventilation to breathe effectively. These are the high-risk patients dexamethasone appears to help. The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, including arthritis, asthma and some skin conditions and it appears to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.
The government is however warning people against buying the drug for mild cases of the virus as they do not need much help breathing. Dexamethasone has been used since the early 1960’s to treat a wide range of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Half of all COVID-19 patients who require a ventilator do not survive, so cutting that risk by a third would have a huge impact. The drug is given intravenously in intensive care and in tablet form for less seriously ill patients.