In a major breakthrough in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, low-cost, anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone reduces the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those Covid-infected patients on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

Coronavirus drug Dexamethasone
The results, described as a "major breakthrough" by scientists leading the UK-led clinical trialReuters

The low-dose steroid treatment is part of the world's biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for Covid-19.

Several researchers have stated that if dexamethasone had been used to treat Covid patients in the United Kingdom from the beginning of the outbreak, around 5,000 lives could have been saved.

'Drug should immediately become standard care'

The scientists leading the UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY, described it as a "major breakthrough", saying that the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospital with the coronavirus pandemic.

Low doses of the generic steroid drug dexamethasone can be given to the patients admitted to the hospital with the infection, which will cut the death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection.

"This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost," Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial, said as quoted by news agency Reuters.

Peter Horby, Landray's co-lead investigator said that the drug dexamethasone, which is a generic steroid used in other infections to reduce inflammation, is "the only drug that's so far shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly."

Let's beat coronavirus
This drug could be of huge benefit for poorer countries with high numbers of coronavirus patients.

However, as of now, there no approved treatments or vaccines for the deadly virus which has infected over 8,150,931globally and killed 439,892.

(With Reuters inputs)