The trial done in the United Kingdom (UK) show it “can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with Covid-19”. For patients on ventilators, the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth, according to preliminary findings shared with WHO.
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with Covid-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the results as a “genuine cause to celebrate a remarkable British scientific achievement and the benefits it will bring not just in this country but around the world”.
On Tuesday afternoon, treatment guidelines from the WHO and the National Institutes of Health recommended against using steroids because of the lack of evidence that the benefit of the drugs outweighs potential harm.
Dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and is currently off-patent and available in most countries.
Peter Horby, a University of Oxford professor led the trials funded by British Ebola vaccine giant Wellcome. He stood next to Johnson during the premier’s announcement.
On Monday, emergency-use authorization of hydroxychloroquine was withdrawn by the Food and Drug Administration because of data from the same British trial that showed that drug did not help patients.
According to Marseille epidemiologist Professor Didier Raoult, Horby did not inform the public about the death rates in each of the subgroups (ventilated, requiring oxygen, not requiring any intervention) of the hydroxychloroquine trial. The British researchers did it to obtain significative results in the dexamethasone group, he said. He added that he was shocked by “the monstrous death rate” in the British trial.
Could @MartinLandray and @PeterHorby explain why they did not inform the public about the death rates in each of the subgroups (ventilated, requiring oxygen, not requiring any intervention) of the HCQ group? They did it to obtain significative results in the dexamethasone group.
— Didier Raoult (@raoult_didier) June 16, 2020