A cheap and widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.

The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say. The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

Had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say. And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

The UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile and says the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was a genuine case to celebrate “a remarkable British scientific achievement”, adding: “We have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak.”

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Michelle Roberts – BBC News – June 16, 2020.

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