In the last few weeks, there have been some important developments in the search for COVID-19 treatments.
Steroid treatment found to help save lives
In June, a clinical trial looked into how effective a cheap and widely available steroid treatment was. The study found that it could help save the lives of people seriously ill with COVID-19. This includes people who are hospitalised and need extra oxygen or people who are put on ventilators to help them breathe.
The steroid, called dexamethasone, has been used for a number of years to treat people with severe lung disease. An ongoing trial in the UK is gathering evidence to show whether it can effectively be used to treat COVID-19.
What are the key findings?
In the latest study from the trial, 2,000 people who were in hospital with COVID-19 were given dexamethasone, compared with 4,000 who were not.
For people who needed ventilation while in hospital, the drug reduced the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For people who were given oxygen, the drug reduced the risk of death from 25 to 20%. It does not appear to help people who have milder symptoms.
Why is this important?
This is the only drug that has so far been shown to lower the risk of death from COVID-19. It is also cheap to produce and widely available, which could be a huge benefit in lower-income countries.
Read the full results: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.22.20137273v1.full.pdf
First COVID-19 treatment recommended in EU
Meanwhile, in the EU, the committee responsible for advising on drug use has recommended the first treatment for COVID-19.
The antiviral drug, Remdesivir, has been recommended based on data showing it helped people who were in hospital with COVID-19 to recover quicker. The European Medicine Agency’s human medicines committee (CHMP) used a quicker review process used in public health emergencies to assess the effectiveness of this drug and provide a recommendation.
Data from a clinical trial in April found that people who received Remdesivir took on average 11 days to recover, compared with 15 days for people who did not receive the treatment. Results also found that the people taking the drug had a lower risk of death.
Read the report from the European Medicine’s Agency: https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/first-covid-19-treatment-recommended-eu-authorisation
Read our summary of results from the Remdesivir trial: https://www.europeanlung.org/en/covid-19/covid-19-newsroom/ebola-drug-found-to-improve-recovery-time-for-covid-19-patients
Read the full results from a key clinical trial on Remdesivir: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2007764
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