Cheap steroids can cut COVID-19 deaths by a third: study

A breakthrough new study has found a cheap and accessible way to make COVID-19 less deadly.

Three common steroids can reduce the risk of death by a third or more in critically sick coronavirus patients, according to a meta-analysis of seven different studies on the medications.

The findings were so convincing that the World Health Organization has now recommended that hospitals give the steroids to severely ill patients. The analysis was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Steroids are a cheap and readily available medication, and our analysis has confirmed that they are effective in reducing deaths amongst the people most severely affected by COVID-19,” Jonathan Sterne, the lead author of the meta-analysis, told the Guardian.

The three steroids included in the analysis — hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone and dexamethasone — were administered to patients who were so sick they needed ventilators. Typically, COVID-19 patients who go on ventilators as a last-resort measure have about a 30% to 50% chance of dying, experts say.

The larger analysis looked at a total of 678 patients who were treated with steroids, compared to 1,025 patients who weren’t or who received a placebo. Most of them were on ventilators.

After about a month, 33% of the patients given steroids succumbed to the virus, while 41% who didn’t receive the treatment died. The researchers concluded that the overall reduction in death came out to about 34%.

The drugs work by preventing the body’s immune system from attacking the lungs — a deadly effect of the virus.

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