Boris Johnson calls new coronavirus drug 'biggest breakthrough yet', reducing risk of death by a third

16 June 2020, 17:26 | Updated: 16 June 2020, 17:46

Boris Johnson has praised the work around Dexamethasone
Boris Johnson has praised the work around Dexamethasone. Picture: PA Images/Getty Images

Boris Johnson has spoken out on the £5 drug dexamethasone which can cut the risk of coronavirus death by third.

Boris Johnson has said new evidence around a drug to treat coronavirus is a ‘cause to celebrate’.

During the briefing on Tuesday, the Prime Minister congratulated UK scientists for their research around the steroid Dexamethasone, which has been proven to reduce the risk of death in patients by 33%.

The cheap and widely available drug - which costs around £5 - will now be given to all coronavirus patients in NHS hospitals who require oxygen, including those on ventilators.

The Department of Health has said this could save thousands of lives.

Boris Johnson led the coronavirus briefing today
Boris Johnson led the coronavirus briefing today. Picture: PA Images

Also addressing the country at the briefing, Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, called the effects of the drug ‘remarkable.’

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In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not.

Sir Patrick Vallance explained that when given to patients with COVID-19 who need ventilation, it reduced the death rate by 35%.

For those who require oxygen, it reduced the rate by 20%.

Mr Johnson has assured the public that the UK government has the drug stockpiled and the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients straight away.

Dexamethasone could reduce deaths by a third
Dexamethasone could reduce deaths by a third. Picture: Getty Images

Chief investigator, Professor Peter Horby did point out there is no benefit to those who don’t have breathing difficulties and wouldn’t be used to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus.

The steroid is part of the world's biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for COVID-19.

Researchers claim, had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved.

Prof Horby said: "This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly.

"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."

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