Major study finds common steroid reduces deaths among patients with severe Covid-19
June 16, 2020
A cheap, readily available steroid drug reduced deaths by a third in patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in a large study, the first time a therapy has been shown to possibly improve the odds of survival with the condition in the sickest patients.
Full data from the study have not been published or subjected to scientific scrutiny. But outside experts on Tuesday immediately embraced the top-line results.
The drug, dexamethasone, is widely available and is used to treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and some cancers.
In a statement, Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, called the result “tremendous news” and “a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease.” Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, called it “a very positive finding” in an interview on CNBC. “I think it needs to be validated, but it certainly suggests that this could be beneficial in this setting.”
Atul Gawande, the surgeon, writer and public health researcher, urged caution, tweeting, “after all the retractions and walk backs, it is unacceptable to tout study results by press release without releasing the paper.”
The study randomly assigned 2,104 patients to receive six milligrams of dexamethasone once a day, by mouth or intravenous injection. These were compared to 4,321 patients assigned to receive usual care alone.
- In patients who needed to be on a ventilator, dexamethasone reduced the death rate by 35%, meaning that doctors would prevent one death by treating eight ventilated patients.
- In those who needed oxygen but were not ventilated, the death rate was reduced 20%, meaning doctors would need to treat 25 patients to save one life.
Both results were statistically significant.
There was no benefit in patients who didn’t require any oxygen. The researchers running the study, called RECOVERY, decided to stop enrolling patients on dexamethasone on June 8 because they believed they had enough data to get a clear result … Read more.