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Readily available dexamethasone shows strong results against coronavirus

Results of a trial have shown that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid drug to reduce inflammation, reduced death rates by around a third in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients who were admitted to hospital. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

There is another treatment for coronavirus, and it’s an easy to obtain steroid. Mercer Island Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss.

“Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that’s been around for a long time, is now the first drug that’s been shown to improve survival in a COVID-19 infection,” Cohen said. “… This study was a large multicenter trial that was conducted in the United Kingdom. There were 2,104 patients who received six milligrams of Dexamethasone once a day, either by mouth or by intravenous injection. And then there was another 4,321 patients that were assigned to receive what they called usual care alone.”

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“They’re releasing the study early because they showed a significant survival benefit,” he added. “But the full data from the study haven’t been published yet and have not really been subjected to the typical peer reviewed scientific scrutiny.”

While results are still early in nature, the study is a big one and looks promising.

“The key thing is Dexamethasone saved lives. Patients who were on a ventilator and were likely to die actually had improvements. There was a 35% reduction in mortality, which is significant,” he said. “And for patients who were on oxygen but not ventilated, the death rate was reduced by 20%.”

This drug is not intended to be preventative like some others. It’s used when you’re being ventilated and on the verge of dying, or require oxygen.

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“The patients who don’t require oxygen and weren’t that sick, you’re not gonna expect Dexamethasone to influence that, whereas the patients who are on a ventilator, those who are requiring a lot of oxygen, those are the patients who have a huge inflammatory response and this is where the Dexamethasone as an anti-inflammatory drug steps in and actually reduces the death rate.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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