Dexamethasone will save thousands of lives in a second peak, says professor behind trials

17 June 2020, 14:39 | Updated: 17 June 2020, 14:59

By Seán Hickey

One of the heads of the trials that found Dexamethasone to reduce coronavirus deaths has said it will be crucial in the event of a second peak.

Professor Peter Horby is Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Oxford and joined Boris Johnson at yesterday's Downing Street briefing as the co-investigator into trials of Dexamethasone, which found the drug to reduce the chance of death in coronavirus patients on breathing support.

Nick Ferrari wanted to know "if there were a second spike, how would this help in combatting that." Professor Horby told him that it would unequivocally reduce the death rates"

"We've worked out there'd be 30,000 in-hospital deaths which is roughly what the UK's experienced to date.

"If we were to experience that again we would prevent about 5,000 of those deaths using this very cheap drug" the scientist revealed.

Nick went on to simpler terms of how the drug works. Professor Horby told him that the initial observation of his team was that "various data from the first SARS outbreak in 2003 and from other respiratory viral infections that suggest that steroid treatment will help some patients" but there had "never been any adequate trial" into Dexamethasone.

Peter Horby joined the Prime Minister at the Downing Street conference yesterday
Peter Horby joined the Prime Minister at the Downing Street conference yesterday. Picture: PA

Nick wanted to know exactly the role of Dexamethasone in fighting coronavirus, which he explained "what the drug is doing is reducing the inflammation of the lungs." He was curious as to why is it only effective in severe patients.

Professor Horby told him that it "worked really well on ventilator patients, it worked pretty good on patients that needed oxygen" but didn't work at all on patients that didn't need help breathing.

"If you don't have that inflammation in the lungs obviously it can't have the effect" he concluded.

Nick asked about the studies Professor Horby's team have been carrying out on other drugs and wondered if trials will now end given they've discovered the benefits of Dexamethasone. "It will continue until we get answers for those drugs as well" the professor said.

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