A trial at Oxford University suggests an existing low-cost drug can cut the risk of death from Covid-19 substantially.
Tests involving 6,000 hospitalised Covid-19 patients suggest the drug can cut the risk of death for those on ventilators from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen the risk of death could be cut from 25% to 20%.
The findings are potentially the biggest breakthrough in Covid-19 treatment so far. Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray told the BBC that the findings suggested one life could be saved for every eight patients on a ventilator and one for every 20-25 treated with oxygen.
If the drug had been routinely used since the beginning of the outbreak, Covid-19 deaths might have been 10% lower in the UK, according to The Economist.
The globally available generic drug dexamethasone is a steroid treatment that calms the immune response. A course costs around £35 in the UK. Its cost in developing countries is far lower.
However, the drug does not seem to help those with milder symptoms who do not need help breathing.