A CHEAP and widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus, it has been revealed.

According to UK experts, dexamethasone, a low-dose steroid treatment can prove critical in saving someone’s life from the virus.

The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, including arthritis, asthma and some skin conditions.

It has recently also been used as part of the world’s biggest trial tests, cutting the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators, while for those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

Led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who were not.

For patients on ventilators it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%, while those on oxygen from 25% to 20%.

Chief investigator Professor Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality and it reduces it significantly. 

“It’s a major breakthrough.”

Lead researcher Professor Martin Landray said: “The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about €5.5 per patient. 

“So essentially it costs €55 to save a life.”

The drug could be of huge benefit to poorer countries with high numbers of COVID-19 patients.

About 19 out of 20 coronavirus patients recover without needing to be hospitalised.

Of those admitted, most recover without needing oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

For those that do need it however, these are the ones dexamethasone appears to help.

It appears to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off the virus.

It does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who do not need help with their breathing.

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