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Fighting Covid-19

Throughout Britain people are working out for themselves what they can do in the fight against Covid-19…

Treatment breakthrough

The “Recovery” trial started in March, involving 11,500 patients drawn from 175 hospitals. It included 2,100 recruits randomised to receive treatment with dexamethasone. Early results from this particular arm of the study were conclusive to the extent that researchers have recommended the intervention becomes part of standard care with immediate effect. 

A ten-day course of the drug reduces the risk of death in patients requiring mechanical ventilation by 40 per cent and in those needing oxygen by a fifth. 

Dexamethasone is inexpensive and widely available in the NHS in both oral and injectable presentations. It has been in use for several decades. Side effects and adverse reactions are marginal and well documented. 

Had the drug’s potential been understood at the start of pandemic, 5,000 lives in the UK might have been saved. 

This is a genuine triumph for British scientists and will have world-wide implications. But dexamethasone has no antiviral activity of its own and is only useful during the later stages of the disease when patients are hospitalised. 

Studies are in the pipeline that might enable earlier intervention aimed at preventing the disease from establishing itself, through the use of medicines with proven anti-viral properties.