MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A common and readily available drug is showing promise in patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
That’s according to a new study from the United Kingdom.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation caused by everything from arthritis to cancer.
And now, the WHO is calling it a “lifesaving scientific breakthrough.”
On June 22, a UK research team announced their trial on an inexpensive, common, and widely available drug showed promising results for the sickest COVID-19 patients.
Patients sick enough to need oxygen and also ones on ventilators were given Dexamethasone.
The drug reduced the number of deaths for patients on oxygen by 1/5.
That number increased to 1/3 for patients on ventilators.
“Unlike some of the other medicines, this actually worked the best in the sickest people,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Specialist at Baptist Hospital.
Threlkeld said doctors were skeptical at first, and understandably so.
The drug President Trump said he was taking to ward off COVID-19, Hydroxychloroquine, actually increased the risk of patients dying of the disease.
“I think we’ve seen enough of the study now, it hasn’t been peer-reviewed, but we’ve seen enough of the study and the numbers, where it looks like it’s well done,” Dr. Threlkeld said.
Dr. Threlkeld said there are several differences between this study and others that have been done:
- It’s being done by a group of private researchers, and not a company trying to sell its product.
- The study is happening in real-time, instead of researchers studying the numbers after the fact.
We asked Dr. Threlkeld how the drug works.
“In the first part of the infection, it’s very possible it didn’t show any benefit because suppressing the immune system may not help you,” he said. “It may actually help the virus to have more replication.”
“But as the immune system kicks in and is fighting the virus aggressively, we have to have some point where we put the brakes on the immune system,” he said. “If we don’t, in some people the immune system can go out of control and start attacking everything in its wake.”
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