The world’s race to find a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 took a major step overnight with an Oxford University study finding dexamethasone reduces deaths from COVID-19.

Dexamethasone is a 60-year old anti-inflammatory drug that is low-cost and widely used. It costs £5 ($9.14) for an entire course of treatment and is produced by several pharmaceuticals including Mylan and Merck.

In addition to inflammation it is used to treat ailments including asthma, allergies and rheumatism.

But in recent weeks it was put to the test in a large study, called Recovery. This study aims to quickly identify the best COVID-19 treatments and enrolled 11,500 patients from over 175 British hospitals.

The study found that deaths among patients on ventilators were lower over a period of four weeks when they received dexamethasone.

Based on the results, it reduces mortality for patients on ventilators by one third. For those receiving oxygen, mortality fell by one fifth. However there was no benefit among patients who didn’t need breathing support.

The university and Britain’s health minister have both claimed this is the first study reducing COVID mortality.

The drug will now be available through Britain’s National Health Service.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved it for use against COVID-19, it is on the regulator’s list of drugs in short supply.


Game changer?

The results have generated significant excitement in the medical community and among investors. There is a rapid race around world to find a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine and this is arguably the best news yet.

NAB economist Tapas Strickland said this drug was,”potentially a game changer for mortality rates”.

America’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci agreed it was good news.

“This is a significant improvement in the available therapeutic options that we have,” he said.

Despite the excitement about the results, the entire study is not yet complete and these results are yet to be peer reviewed let alone replicated in other studies.

However it is further ahead than Gilead Sciences’ anti-viral remdesivir from a COVID-19 outcome perspective.

While several governments, such as Israel, are keen to get their hands on remdesivir, it only shortens patients’ recovery time.