LONDON – Treating critically ill COVID-19 patients with corticosteroids reduces risk of death by 20%, analysis of seven international trials found on Wednesday, prompting the World Health Organization to update its treatment advice .
The analysis – which pooled data from separate trials of hydrocortisone, dexamethasone and low-dose methylprednisolone – found that steroids improved survival rates for patients with COVID-19 sick enough to be in intensive care to the hospital.
“This equates to about 68 percent of patients (the sickest from COVID-19) surviving after corticosteroid treatment, compared to about 60 percent surviving without corticosteroids,” the researchers said in a statement.
“Steroids are a cheap and readily available drug, and our analysis has confirmed that they are effective in reducing deaths among those most severely affected by COVID-19,” Jonathan Sterne, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the UK University of Bristol who worked on the analysis, the briefing said.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and the stories that matter, delivered on weekday mornings.
He said the trials – conducted by researchers in Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Spain and the United States – gave a consistent message throughout, showing that the drugs were beneficial in sicker patients, regardless of age or gender or how long the patients had been ill.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reinforce findings that were hailed as a major breakthrough and announced in June, when dexamethasone became the first drug capable of reducing death rates in patients with COVID. -19 seriously ill.
Since then, dexamethasone has been widely used in intensive care units treating patients with COVID-19 in some countries.
Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford who worked on the dexamethasone trial which was a key part of the pooled analysis released on Wednesday, said the results mean doctors in the hospitals around the world can safely switch to drug use. to save lives.
“These results are clear and immediately usable in clinical practice,” he told reporters. “Among critically ill patients with COVID-19, low dose corticosteroids… dramatically reduce the risk of death. “
The researchers said the benefit was shown regardless of whether the patients were on ventilation when they started treatment. They said the WHO would immediately update its guidelines to reflect the new findings.
Until June’s findings on dexamethasone, no effective treatment had been shown to reduce death rates in patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
More than 25 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and 856,876 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir was cleared by U.S. regulators in May for use in patients with severe COVID-19 after trial data showed the antiviral drug helped shorten recovery time at l ‘hospital.
Anthony Gordon, a professor at Imperial College London who also worked on the analysis, said his results were good news for patients who become seriously ill with COVID-19, but would not be enough to end epidemics or to facilitate infection control measures.
“As impressive as these results are, they are not a cure. We now have something that will help, but it is not a cure, so it is vital that we maintain all prevention strategies. “
Follow NBC HEALTH on Twitter and Facebook.