Each day doctors are battling to save lives with the limited resources they have. They hope, as do we, that medical science will soon lend them a strong helping hand.
A group of doctors announced today they had completed a controlled study in which they compared the survival of patients seriously ill with Covid-19 with those on standard care. The seriously ill included those who need oxygen support and those in intensive care units with breathing assistance.
More than 2,000 patients were treated with dexamethasone, a low-dose steroid. Their health outcomes were compared with more than 4,000 others who received standard care.
The results are encouraging. Dexamethasone treatment reduced the death rate of those needing breathing assistance by 35% and those needing oxygen support by 20%. This report adds to other smaller studies supporting the use of steroids in Covid-19 patients requiring oxygen support.
However, the Oxford team erroneously claimed that this was the first medication to improve the survival of seriously ill Covid-19 patients—a claim repeated in headlines around the world.
Previously published studies show that treatment with anticoagulants has an even bigger effect in reducing Covid-19 patient death. What I have called the Hong Kong cocktail (lopinavir, ritonavir, ribavirin, and interferon-beta) also improves patient survival.
Noticeably absent from this discussion is remdesivir, which in another published study was shown to have no measurable effect on patient survival despite current enthusiasm for its use.
It is regrettable that these researchers announced their success in advance of the actual publication of their results—a tactic otherwise known as publication by press release.