Futures spiked on news early Tuesday that a life saving steroid, dexamethasone, has proven effective in the treatment of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus.
The low-dose steroid which has been around since the 1960s was found to cut the risk of death by 35% for patients on ventilators, and 20% for those on supplemental oxygen without intubation. It's currently part of the world's largest trial testing existing treatments, according to the Associated Press, citing UK researchers.
"This is an extremely welcome result," said Peter Horby of Oxford, one of the study leaders. "The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide."
This is the same study that earlier this month showed the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was not working against the coronavirus. The study enrolled more than 11,000 patients in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who were given either standard of care or that plus one of several treatments: the HIV combo drug lopinavir-ritonavir, the antibiotic azithromycin; the steroid dexamethasone, the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab, or plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 that contains antibodies to fight the virus. -AP
According to the BBC, the drug is an anti-inflammatory which treats a host of other conditions, and can halt a 'cytokine storm,' in which the body's immune system goes into overdrive and downward spirals.
The new treatment is also inexpensive, with a 10-day treatment costing around $45 per patient for a drug that is "globally available."
Lead researcher, Prof. Martin Landray, says that hospital patients should now be given the steroid without delay, but that people shouldn't try to hoard it for private use.
According to the study, Dexamethasone does not appear to help milder cases - those who don't need help breathing.
The drug has been used to treat a wide range of conditions, including asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.