Oxford’s RECOVERY trial takes a strong bet on dexamethasone; Scientists, clinicians await study report

June 16, 2020 0 By FM

The RECOVERY trial initiated by University of Oxford to test the range of potential treatments for COVID-19 patients, has now zeroed in on the conventional corticosteroid—dexamethasone as a strong candidate to save life of patients with severe symptoms and already on ventilator or oxygen support. The University trial findings, which is yet be published, claimed that the drug— currently used for treating inflammation in arthritis patients—lowers the risk of death in COVID patients. 

Dr Peter Horby, the lead investigator of the RECOVERY trial, along with co-investigator Martin Landray said in a Tuesday media release that the mortality benefit of dexamethasone found in the study is an “extremely welcome result”. 

Explaining the study result, the Oxford release stated that the randomised trial in 2,104 patients on  dexamethasone 6 mg once daily for 10 days, cut the risk of death by 35% in ventilator supported cases and by 20% in patients on oxygen. This was in comparison with usual care in 4,321 patients. However, the treatment with dexamethasone did not lower the risk of death in COVID-19 patients who did not require respiratory support. 

The result is encouraging not only because of the comparatively higher percentage of positive response in reducing fatality but also due to the fact that dexamethasone is low cost and can be used immediately to save lives. 
But the scientific community, despite this quick excitement on the study result, has expressed concerns. Several scientists and physicians want to see the full research paper before jumping on dexamethasone.

Dr Atul Gawande, a senior clinician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, wrote on his Twitter handle that;  “It will be great news if dexamethasone, a cheap steroid, really does cut death by 1/3 in ventilated patients with COVID-19, but after all the retractions and walk backs, it is unacceptable to tout study results by press release without releasing the paper.”