First effective drug against COVID-19 announced

Dexamethasone - first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19

Over the past weeks, many people across our Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency have been in touch with me to share their challenges during lockdown. Those who are 'shielding' because they have medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus, have clearly been most affected. So it is welcome news that we are now at last beginning to see the results of the important research of our universities, hospitals and sector specialists.

The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment... Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.               Professor Peter Horby, University of Oxford

Research

The ‘RECOVERY’ COVID-19 drug trial, run by Oxford University, recruited over 11,500 patients from over 175 NHS hospitals across the UK. The research sought to find a drug that would reduce mortality for those most affected by this dreadful virus.

The preliminary results of the research into Dexamethasone has shown that the risk of death from COVID-19 is cut by one third for those on ventilators, and one fifth for those receiving oxygen alone. I want to draw attention to the fact that there was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support. Nor does it have any preventative benefit.

This research was funded by the UK government, via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Supporting patients

The NHS has given approval for the prescribing of Dexamethasone for patients on ventilators or on oxygen alone, meaning that Britain is the first country in the world to approve the drug for certain coronavirus patients. The government has taken action to secure supplies of Dexamethasone in the UK, buying additional stocks ahead of time in the event of a positive trial outcome. This means there is already enough treatment for over 200,000 people from stock with immediate effect.

It is particularly pleasing that this drug, is generic, low-cost, well-understood, and readily available meaning it can now be used to benefit COVID-19 patients not just in the UK but across the world.