COVID 19 has shaken up the very foundations of the modern world in just 6 months. Researchers have been working day and night for a possible vaccine, and have made some good progress too. However, it looks like the answer lies in the past and not the future as anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone, a mass produced, very affordable drug, has shown the ability to be potentially life saving, researchers at Oxford University said.

Out of 20 people affected by the virus, only 1 was required to be hospitalized. Even out of those who are hospitalized, very few develop potentially life threatening conditions. This drug is only to be used for those who belong to that particular category, who either need ventilators or oxygen for treatment.

When COVID 19 virus enters the body, the immune system goes into overdrive. This heightened response can pose some serious threat to an individual’s body, with the potential to turn life threatening in some cases. This over reaction, called the cytokine storm, can be curbed by the use of Dexamethasone, which is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions.

This hypothesis was confirmed by a research conducted by Oxford researchers. In this research, 2000 patients were administered a dose of dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug.

It was found that the drug reduces the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on Oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth. Specifically, the drug reduces the risk of death from 40% to 28% for those on ventilators, and from 25% to 20% for those on Oxygen. Thus, “For every eight patients treated on ventilators, you could save one life,” Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray said. Similarly, for those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug.

A report by BBC also suggests that had the drug been used in Europe from the start, 5000 lives could have been saved.

So far, this is the only drug that has shown toxicity towards the virus. Claims were being made that hydroxychloroquine could potentially be used to fight off the virus, but research doesn’t back that up. However, a drug as widespread and cheap as Dexamethasone can be readily made available to everyone and can help save lives at a global scale.

Chief investigator Prof 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.”

However, the drug does not seem to be helping those with milder symptoms.