World Health Organization announced how it welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the UK that showed Dexamethasone drug can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.  

This trial was led by a team from Oxford University. 2,104 patients were given Dexamethasone and were compared with 4,321 patients who were not given this drug.  

The treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one-third of patients who were on ventilators and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth. A chief investigator of this trial added,  

This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide. 

What is Dexamethasone? 

Since the 1960s, Dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers. It has been listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations, and is currently off-patent and affordably available in most countries. 

New Scientist

Is it affordable? 

The drug is quite inexpensive. In the US, the average retail price is under $50 (Rs 3000) while in the UK, it costs about £5 (Rs 477). According to Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby, 

The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available.

Can I use the medicine without prescription? 

The drug is given intravenously in intensive care and in tablet form for less seriously ill patients. It is not something one should just go and buy. As of now, it does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who do not need help with their breathing. 

Sources: BBC and WHO