Biggest breakthrough, says PM Boris on dexamethasone drug trial results
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday called the life-saving results of a drug trial announced by the University of Oxford as the ‘biggest breakthrough’ so far in global efforts to find a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus that has infected millions across the world.
Soon after the university announced the results of the dexamethasone trial, the UK government announced its immediate adoption in hospitals treating patients, calling it the “the world’s first coronavirus treatment proven to reduce the risk of death”.
Johnson hailed the trial’s results at the daily Downing Street briefing along with the chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance, and Peter Horby, professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Oxford, who said the drug is cheap, stable, widely available for the last 60 years and can be used immediately across the world.
Johnson said: “I am delighted the biggest breakthrough yet has been made by a team of scientists here in the UK. I am proud of these British scientists. This drug can now be made available across the NHS. We have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak.”
Horby and Vallance stressed that the drug is effective only for certain patients: those who are on ventilator or need oxygen.
The trial’s results show that the anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone can save the lives of people seriously afflicted by coronavirus, cuts the death risk by a third for those on ventilators, and by a fifth for those on oxygen.
The university said that in March, the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial was established to test a range of potential treatments for Covid-19, including low-dose dexamethasone. Over 11,500 patients have been enrolled from over 175 hospitals.
A total of 2104 patients randomly received 6 mg of the drug once per day (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for ten days and were compared with 4321 patients randomised to usual care alone.
Among the patients who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41%), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25%), and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13%).
It said: “Dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients…and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only…There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support”.
“Based on these results, 1 death would be prevented by treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone,” the university added.
Horby said: “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19. This is an extremely welcome result. The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”
Vallance added: “This is tremendous news…It is particularly exciting as this is an inexpensive widely available medicine. This is a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease, and the speed at which researchers have progressed finding an effective treatment is truly remarkable”.