Researchers in England have announced the first drug shown to save lives among seriously ill patients suffering from COVID-19, R. J. Rico, Menelaos Hadjicostis and Lisa Marie pane wrote for the Associated Press (AP) on June 17, 2020.

The drug, called dexamethasone, reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen, researchers in England said. It did not appear to help less ill patients.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the drug was the “biggest breakthrough yet” in treating the coronavirus, and top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci called it “a significant improvement in the available therapeutic options that we have.” Britain is making dexamethasone available to patients on the country’s National Health Service. The UK Department of Health said the drug had been approved to treat all hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen, effective immediately. It said the UK had stockpiled enough to treat 200,000 patients.

“It’s on almost every pharmacy shelf in every hospital, it’s available throughout the world, and it’s very cheap,” said Peter Horby of Oxford University, one of the leaders of the trial that randomly assigned 2,104 patients to get the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients getting only usual care.

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