New Delhi: In what could be a “magic bullet” in the war against Coronavirus, cheap and commonly available corticosteroid Dexamethasone, used to treat arthritis, immune system disorders, and allergic reactions can help save seriously-ill COVID patients, British researchers said on Tuesday. Also Read - Maharashtra COVID Tally: Cases Spike by 7862, Mumbai Deaths Cross 7000

This drug is being touted as a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus. As per reports, the drug reduces death rate by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cuts deaths by a fifth. Also Read - Air Filter That Can Kill COVID Virus Instantly Developed by Scientists | Read Here

Dexamethasone is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. Also Read - Coronavirus India Update: COVID Tally Crosses 8-lakh Mark; Caseload at 814898, Death Toll 22106

The results from the ‘Recovery’ trial, led by a team from Oxford University, suggest the steroid can prevent death in one in eight ventilated coronavirus patients and one in 25 on breathing support, British media reported.

With this finding, Dexamethasone, which is given either via an injection or as a once-a-day tablet, becomes the first drug proven to treat the incurable viral disease.

In the trial, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug.

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40 per cent to 28 per cent. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” the BBC report said.

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray held the findings suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, one life could be saved, and for those patients treated with oxygen, one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug could be saved.

“There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about 5 pounds per patient. So essentially it costs 35 pounds to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available.”

Prof Landray said that when appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, but cautioned people not to go out and buy it to take at home.

Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus – those who don’t need help with their breathing.

The Recovery Trial has been running since March. It included the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine which has subsequently been ditched amid concerns that it increases fatalities and heart problems.

(with agency inputs)