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17.06.20

Government approve NHS use of world’s first coronavirus treatment

Following evidence that anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone reduced the risk of death in coronavirus patients, the government has moved to authorise its immediate use by the NHS.

All hospitalised Covid-19 patients requiring oxygen, including those on ventilators, across the UK will now be able to be treated using dexamethasone, potentially saving thousands of lives.

The drug has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of death in Covid-19 patients on ventilation by as much as 35% and patients on oxygen by 20%, reducing the total 28-day mortality rate by 17%.

Evidence of dexamethasone’s effects were seen as part of Oxford University’s UK RECOVERY trial, which was funded by the UK government via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It is the first clinical trial anywhere in the world to show a treatment provides significant impact in reducing patient mortality.

Action had already been taken to secure supplies of dexamethasone in the UK, buying additional stocks ahead of time in the event of a positive trial outcome. This means there is already enough treatment for over 200,000 people from stockpiles alone.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I’m absolutely delighted that today we can announce the world’s first successful clinical trial for a treatment for COVID-19. This astounding breakthrough is testament to the incredible work being done by our scientists behind the scenes.

“From today the standard treatment for COVID-19 will include dexamethasone, helping save thousands of lives while we deal with this terrible virus.

READ MORE: World’s largest potential coronavirus treatments trial rolled out in UK

READ MORE: University Hospital Southampton trialling new coronavirus drug

“Guided by the science, the UK is leading the way in the global fight against coronavirus – with the best clinical trials, the best vaccine development and the best immunology research in the world.

“I want to thank the brilliant scientists at Oxford University, the thousands of patients who took part in the study, and my own team, led by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who has done such a brilliant job driving this work.”

Following the positive clinical trial, the drug has also been added to the government’s parallel export list, which bans companies from buying medicines meant for UK patients and selling them on for a higher price in another country. This step will help further protect supply for UK patients by enforcing regulatory action on those who flout the restrictions.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, added: “The RECOVERY trial is an outstanding example of the UK leading the world with an impressive study capable of delivering robust answers to critical questions.

“The positive findings on dexamethasone follow the disappointing findings on hydroxychloroquine. Together these 2 results illustrate the power of properly conducted clinical trials and the inherent danger of assuming things work without robust data.

“Whilst tempting to do otherwise, it is always better to wait for the evidence. On the dexamethasone findings, this is very encouraging because the signal on reduced mortality applies to many of the patients admitted to hospitals and the drug is comparatively low priced and available worldwide.”

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