Researchers conducting a controlled trial on various treatments said in a preliminary report released July 17 that dexamethasone appeared to help patients recover from severe COVID-19 cases.
“In patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the use of dexamethasone resulted in lower 28-day mortality among those who were receiving either invasive mechanical ventilation or oxygen alone at randomization but not among those receiving no respiratory support,” the researchers said in the report, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Two groups were analyzed: 2,104 patients who received the steroid and 4,321 who received standard care.
About 23 percent of the patients in the first group died, versus almost 26 percent of patients in the other group, within 28 days of being randomly assigned to one of the populations.
The incidence of death was about 29 percent among patients on invasive mechanical ventilation and receiving dexamethasone. Patients getting standard care and on the ventilation experienced about a 41 percent incidence of death.
Among those receiving oxygen but not invasive ventilation, the group treated with dexamethasone had an incidence of death of about 23 percent, versus about 26 percent for the group receiving usual care.
The incidence of death was higher in the dexamethasone group among those receiving no respiratory support.
Dexamethasone is a glucocorticoid, a type of hormone that reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system.
The research was conducted as part of the RECOVERY trial, a national trial in the UK aimed at analyzing prospective treatments for COVID-19. The paper included full results of the dexamethasone arm; researchers announced the favorable outcome last month but did not release much data.
The trial was funded by the University of Oxford, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Medical Research Council, among others.
Also last month, researchers said they found no clinical benefit in hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial, against COVID-19. There was also no clinical benefit found for lopinavir-ritonavir, a commonly used combination mostly used against HIV.
Other arms of the trial include analyzing tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory; convalescent plasma, or plasma collected from donors who recovered from COVID-19; and azithromycin, an antibiotic that’s been used widely in conjunction with hydroxychloroquine.