A common steroid drug used to treat conditions from altitude sickness to eye inflammation has now been shown to reduce deaths in the sickest patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to British scientists.
Researchers added that the drug, called dexamethasone, has been shown to have had a positive impact by a third in death rates aligned with the coronavirus.
Researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. compared outcomes of 2,104 hospitalized patients who received the steroid with 4,321 patients who did not, finding that deaths were reduced by about a third in those patients who were sick enough to require mechanical ventilation, and by about 20% among patients who had trouble breathing but had not been put on a ventilator.
However, the drug did not appear to help patients who did not require oxygen.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, lamented in a tweet Tuesday: “It is now a feature of this pandemic that most findings made public via press release with little data to provide context.”
But, Jha added, “if this holds up — this is very good news indeed!”