Dexamethasone found to help the sickest COVID-19 patients

The drug is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.

Matt Bodell
16 June 2020

The steroid was shown to reduce deaths by one-third in the sickest COVID-19 patients.

Dexamethasone, an inexpensive steroid, has been shown to reduce the mortality rate of the COVID-19 presenting with severe respiratory complications.


In March 2020, the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial was established as a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, including low-dose dexamethasone.

A total of 2104 patients received dexamethasone 6mg once per day (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for ten days and were compared with 4321 patients who did not receive the drug.

Dexamethasone was shown to reduce deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. However, no benefit was shown among those patients who did not require respiratory support.

Based on these results, 1 death would be prevented by the treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.


Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and one of the Chief Investigators for the trial, 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.’

The UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, added, “This is tremendous news today from the Recovery trial showing that dexamethasone is the first drug to reduce mortality from COVID-19. 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.

“It shows the importance of doing high-quality clinical trials and basing decisions on the results of those trials.’

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