Researchers have discovered a low cost and easily accessible drug that can be used to help patients suffering severe illness from coronavirus. From months of detailed research with no substantial results, scientists are seeing this glimpse of positivity as a major breakthrough for the treatment needed for COVID19. This research can help boost the morale of citizens feared by the threat of coronavirus.
The drug dexamethasone can be used through a low dose treatment to fight COVID19. It is available at many pharmacies and easily accessible anywhere in the world. The accessibility of the drug could be a significant benefit for those in poorer countries with a growing number of COVID19 victims. 1 in 8 severely sick patients of the recovery trial for this drug, survived because of dexamethasone as these patients were all on ventilators therefore finding it extremely difficult to breathe. From those patients that needed oxygen, the treatment has been discovered to cut deaths by a fifth. If this treatment was used at the beginning of pandemic in the UK, it is believed it could have saved up to 5,000 lives.
In light of this announcement, the UK government has approved immediate use of the drug to help coronavirus patients. The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock comments to the Guardian “This astounding breakthrough is testament to the incredible work being done by our scientists behind the scenes.” he continues “From today the standard treatment for Covid-19 will include dexamethasone, helping save thousands of lives while we deal with this terrible virus.” The drug has given strong hope to the government and the health service in its ability to help save thousands of lives. Prime Minister Borris Johnson expressed in his press conference the positivity of this news “Today, there is genuine cause to celebrate a remarkable British scientific achievement, and the benefits it will bring, not just in this country but around the world”.
Experts in the discovery of the use of dexamethasone include Professor Martin Landray. He expresses that the sickest patients in the world could begin to use this drug immediately due to the ease of access there is and the low cost,“This is a drug that is globally available. This is not an expensive drug. That is immensely important. As the BBC News reports the Professor clearly outlines that “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.” An extremely small price to pay per patient to save thousands of lives.
Dexamethasone was included in a recovery trial where a randomized study was taken in order to test drugs against COVID19. This trial included more than 11,500 patients from 176 hospitals across the world. It was proven dexamethasone helped to work against inflammation and is safe to be used in low dose forms.
From the trial, 2,104 patients were chosen to receive 6mg of dexamethasone once a day for ten days. This was compared to a group of patients who did not receive the drug. From the patients that were not given the drug, the death rate was highest in those that needed to be put on a ventilator compared to those who needed oxygen or had lungs that were working sufficiently well. It is evident though that the drug did not help patients that did not need help with their breathing.
If a patient needed oxygen, using the drug would mean one life could be saved for every 25 patients with COVID19. As Professor Martin Landray explains to the Guardian, we must look at the positives of this drug rather than the risks of using it “This is a result of instant global importance because this drug is readily available. It’s been around for probably 60 years, it costs in the order of £5 for a complete course of treatment in the NHS and substantially less – probably less than $1 – in other parts of the world, for example in India”.
Prior to this discovery, hydroxychloroquine was a drug being tested for the treatment of COVID19. However, it has been proven it does not benefit patients in hospital. In the US the Food and Drug Administration and in the UK the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority have both suspended the use of this drug for any further patients.
In the UK, Professor Stephen Powis NHS medical director comments to the Guardian on the hope for success in the future due to discovery of dexamethasone, it has been “a huge breakthrough in our search for new ways to successfully treat patients with COVID19, both in the UK and across the world. He adds “It is thanks to NHS staff and patients who participated in the trial that from now, we are able to use this drug to dramatically improve Covid-19 survival for people in hospital who require oxygen or ventilation.”