Good News Update: Steroids Can Save Critical COVID-19 Patients

Doctors are searching for methods to help the fight against COVID-19. That means looking for a vaccine, finding treatments, discovering cures and saving critically ill people. New studies of three drugs have made a breakthrough on that last front.

The steroids dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone can save people who are critically ill with COVID-19. The steroids can calm down the extreme immune system response that develops in some people in later stages of COVID-19 infections. That immune response causes inflammation that makes it hard for people to get enough oxygen. The doctors were already using the drugs based on early results that we shared back in June. It’s lovely to be able to update you with the news that the early results are being confirmed in large numbers!

Unfortunately, the drugs only work to fight the overreaction of the immune system. Doctors can’t use steroids to treat people early. But, in the new studies, steroids cut mortality rates from approximately 40 percent to 32. That is a large difference. And it gives doctors hope to know that progress is being made.

At the beginning of the year, at times it felt almost hopeless knowing that we had no specific treatments,” said Prof. Anthony Gordon, of Imperial College London. “It was a very worrying time, yet less than six months later we’ve found clear, reliable evidence in high-quality clinical trials of how we can tackle this devastating disease.”

At the point at which you reach for an oxygen cylinder for a patient with COVID, you probably should be reaching for the prescription for [steroids],” said Prof. Martin Landray, of Oxford Univ. “These results are instantly useable; they are widely available, cheap, well-understood drugs that reduce mortality.”

When the whole world faces the same threat, doctors need as many tools as possible to fight against it. There have been problems all along with supply chains and making sure there were enough treatments to go around. Having something so widely available be effective could be a massive boon for patients in need of treatment.

Steroids are not a cure, but they help improve outcomes,” said Prof. Anthony Gordon, who led the research into hydrocortisone. “Having a choice of different types of steroids, all of which seem to improve patient recovery, is great as it helps ease the problem of drug supply issues.”

While researchers work on finding cures, treatments and vaccines, we’re pleased to know that steroids can help doctors prevent deaths in the sickest patients. Anything that can give people more time to recover and receive care is a step in the right direction! Seeing these breakthroughs makes us hopeful that we’ll see more good news soon!
September 03, 2020
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