Researchers at Oxford University in the UK announced last week that a low-dose steroid treatment—which costs about $6 per dose and is widely available—can reduce the risk of death by one-third for patients on ventilators, and by one-fifth for those on oxygen.
Doctors typically use the drug, called dexamethasone, to reduce inflammation in their patients. It is an effective treatment for a wide range of conditions, including asthma, arthritis, and even some skin problems. It seems to help coronavirus patients by reducing the damage of cytokine storms, a condition where the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy tissue as it tries to fight the virus.
“It’s a major breakthrough,” the chief investigator, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases Peter Horby, told the BBC. “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality—and it reduces it significantly.”