SCIENTISTS in the UK believe they have found a cure for the Covid-19 virus with the steroid drug Dexamethasone which they claim could have saved as many as 5,000 lives had it been administered since the outbreak of the pandemic.
One of the hardest hit countries by the virus, the UK is number five on the list of infections worldwide with 298,136 cases of which there have been 41,969 fatalities. As a result, UK scientists have been working round the clock to find both a cure and vaccine for the virus and they believe they may have now made a breakthrough.
According to scientific experts, the low-dose steroid treatment Dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19. Apparently, the drug has been involved in the world’s biggest trial testing of existing treatments to see if it also work for coronavirus.
So far, the drug has cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and for those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth. According to researchers, had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.
They claim that Dexamethasone could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients. About 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital and of those who are admitted to hospital, most also recover but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
These are the high-risk patients whom Dexamethasone appears to help. Already, the drug is used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions and it appears that it helps stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.
In the trials, led by a team from Oxford University, around 2,000 hospital patients were given Dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug. For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28% and or patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
Chief investigator Professor Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough.”
Lead researcher Professor Martin Landray added that the findings suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, you could save one life. He pointed out that for those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20 to 25 treated with the drug.
Professor Landray said: “There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of Dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available.”
Dexamethasone, however, does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus, like those who do not need help with their breathing. Recovery trials have been running since March, including the malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine which has subsequently been ditched amid concerns that it increases fatalities and heart problems.
Another drug called Remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that appears to shorten recovery time for people with coronavirus, is already being made available on the National Health Service. Dexamethasone has been used since the early 1960s to treat a wide range of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.