The World Health Organisation (WHO) has welcomed initial trial results that show dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication reduces the risk of death of COVID-19 patients on ventilators and oxygen support.
The clinical trial of the drug, led by a team from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, showed that dexamethasone reduces the risk of death of patients on ventilators by a third, and by a fifth on those on oxygen.
In a statement, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support. This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough."
Dr Ghebreyesus added that other clinical trials currently were underway in search of an antidote for the virus, including the Solidarity Trial launched by WHO and partners, which is comparing four drugs to see if they slow disease progression or improve survival.
"While we are searching for COVID-19 treatments, we must continue strong efforts to prevent as many infections as possible by finding, isolating, testing and caring for every case; and tracing and quarantining every contact", Dr Ghebreyesus urged.
As of today, confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 8,24 million, with over 446 000 deaths.
Researchers told the BBC that had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, about 5000 people could have been saved.