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Cheap steroids linked to lower virus death rate

A new study has found cheap, readily available steroid treatments can lower the death rate of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The analysis, which included findings from seven randomised trials backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), found the rate of death over a 28-day period was lower in patients who received doses of corticosteroids, compared…

A new study has found cheap, readily available steroid treatments can lower the death rate of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

The analysis, which included findings from seven randomised trials backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), found the rate of death over a 28-day period was lower in patients who received doses of corticosteroids, compared with those who received a placebo, or regular types of treatment.

The analysis found steroids were linked to a one-third reduction of death in critically ill patients.

The findings mean cheap, already available drugs could be the way forward for treating critically ill sufferers of COVID-19 who are requiring oxygen treatment.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), said “clinical trial data (has) demonstrated that low-dose dexamethasone reduced mortality in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 who required respiratory support”.

“Clearly, now steroids are the standard of care,” Dr Howard C Bachner, editor-in-chief of JAMA told The New York Times after the findings were published.

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The study pooled data from seven trials across 12 countries between February 26 and June 9. It included 1703 patients, 647 of whom died.

In the trials, patients were randomised to be treated with either systemic dexamethasone, hydrocortisone or methylprednisolone – or to be given a placebo or “usual care”. A total of 678 people were given the steroids with the remaining 1025 getting the placebo or general treatment.

As a result of the findings, the authors believe steroids should become the first treatment for critically ill coronavirus patients. The only other drug proven to be effective for critical patients is remdesivir.

Steroids are cheap and widely available drugs used to treat inflammatory conditions like asthma, lupus and some types of skin rashes. Steroids do have side effects including high blood pressure, weight gain and mood swings.

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