The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will update its clinical guidelines after a trial showed that 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 WHO’s clinical guidance is meant to keep doctors and other medical professionals informed with the latest data.
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with Covid-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday.
Results from Tuesday’s trial are still preliminary, but it showed that dexamethasone cut death rates 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 said.
The BBC spoke to a patient who survived Covid-19 after taking part in the trial. She said she feels “eternally grateful” and believes she would have died without it.