Joint Research Office


Steroid drug reduces mortality in hospitalised Covid-19 patients

17 June 2020

The steroid dexamethasone may substantially reduce mortality in severely ill Covid-19 patients, according to initial results from a national priority trial in which UCLH is involved.

Researchers said use of the drug at low doses cut deaths by one third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. Based on these results, 1 death would be prevented by treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.

The results come from the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial, which began in March and has been evaluating a range of therapies for Covid-19. So far patients have been enrolled from over 175 NHS hospitals. At UCLH Dr Hanif Esmail is leading the study.

The researchers are now working to publish the full details as soon as possible.

Dr Esmail said: “We are very pleased to have been able to contribute the recruitment of the RECOVERY trial at UCLH.  It has been an impressive national effort with over 11,000 patients participating in the trial across the UK. The initial, headline results reported today for the dexamethasone arm are very encouraging suggesting that this drug may substantially reduce mortality in those hospitalised with COVID-19, either on oxygen or needing mechanical ventilation.  I am sure there will now be careful consideration on how to implement these initial findings pending publication of the full results.”

Peter Horby, one of the Chief Investigators for the trial at the University of Oxford, said: “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, said: “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.”