Currently, there is no vaccine available in the market for the novel coronavirus. So, the experts are looking for an antiviral drug that can treat COVID-19 infection for the time being. The health experts in the UK suggested the use of a steroid drug dexamethasone to treat the fatal virus. Dexamethasone is currently in a trial to test its efficacy as a coronavirus treatment.
This drug is given in a small dose to the patient infected with the coronavirus. It significantly reduces the risk of death in severely ill patients. Since it is a low-cost treatment, the drug can be highly beneficial for developing countries with a high death toll.
The experts also said that the drug could prevent 5,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK if they used it earlier. The NHS will provide dexamethasone to the coronavirus patients and the UK government has a huge stock of the drug consisting of 200,000 courses.
Dexamethasone is beneficial for patients who need a breathing ventilator or oxygen to survive. More than 90% of patients do not need any coronavirus treatment. But some patients reach critical conditions and those can benefit from this drug.
The mechanism of action of dexamethasone is by reducing the inflammatory immune response of the body. The rapid immune response damages the bodily organs. It results in a “cytokine storm” which is a fatal reaction to the virus.
The clinical trial on this drug included two categories of patients. It involved a group of 2,000 patients who received this treatment and the other was 4,000 patients who did not receive this treatment.
The findings of this trial showed that it reduces the death risk in patients on mechanical ventilators by 40 percent to 28 percent. The patients who need oxygen were at 25 percent to 20 percent less death risk due to this treatment.
Professor Peter Horby, who is the chief investigator said that dexamethasone is the only coronavirus treatment found effective so far. It significantly reduces death risk in critically ill patients. The drug is a breakthrough in the treatment of coronavirus infection.
According to the lead researcher in this trial, Professor Martin Landray, the patients receive doses of this drug for nearly 10 consecutive days. The whole treatment does not cost more than £35. He also said that the drug should be readily available in hospitals. It is also easily available all over the world.
Dexamethasone is only for patients who are in an intensive care unit and need a ventilator. People with mild symptoms of coronavirus infection should not take this drug. It is an old steroid which is already available in the market. But people should not self-treat themselves using this drug.
Dexamethasone is already used for many health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and breathing problems such as asthma. The drug reduces the risk of fatality by a third in coronavirus patients. People who need intensive caretake it in the form of an injection. For people who are less severely ill can take this in the form of a tablet.
The experts suggested the use of this drug immediately as a coronavirus treatment. The huge impact of the pandemic can reduce significantly using this drug, according to the researchers. Also, it is highly cost-effective and readily available in most of the countries of the world.