Dexamethasone has a new use, and it’s now saving lives in fight against coronavirus

BOSTON — Dexamethasone is not a new drug in fact, it’s been around since 1961 and is regularly prescribed to people with asthma. But in the fight against the coronavirus, it’s got a new use and is now saving lives.

“This will really change things,” said Dr. C. Michael Gibson, a Harvard professor and cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Gibson said dexamethasone is a steroid routinely used to fight arthritis and asthma.

“And it turns out it may be very effective in corona virus particularly for those people who are ventilated or require oxygen,” he said.

The news comes from Oxford University’s The Recovery Trial, which included more than 6,200 patients and is the world’s biggest trial of existing medicines to fight COVID-19.

One British doctor said that dexamethasone reduces mortality between a sixth and a third.

The study found that in those ventilated it reduced mortality from 40 percent to 28 percent. In those requiring oxygen, it reduced mortality from 25 percent to 20 percent.

“From my point of view, this is a game changer anytime you lower mortality by 33 percent,” Gibson said.

The medicine is effective in patients whose body immune system overreacts, causing what’s called a cytokine storm where the body attacks itself.

“What dexamethasone does is turns down that cytokine response and makes it a safe harbor in the middle of this cytokine storm,” said Gibson.

And on top of all that good news, dexamethasone is also very affordable, patients would pay about $6 per dose.

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