Steroid Sparks Hope and Skepticism

A box of Dexamethasone tablets shown yesterday in Cardiff, UK. Image: Matthew Horwood/Getty
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A box of Dexamethasone tablets shown yesterday in Cardiff, UK. Image: Matthew Horwood/Getty

Preliminary results showing that a cheap steroid reduces the risk of death among gravely ill COIVD-19 patients is inspiring hope and skepticism. 

The finding has not been peer-reviewed, but University of Oxford researchers announced the steroid dexamethasone—when given to patients on ventilators for up to 10 days—cut the risk of death by a third, CNN reports.

The risk of death for patients on oxygen but not on ventilators was reduced by a fifth, but the steroid made no difference among patients who didn’t require either. 

But: 

  • Oxford’s Peter Horby cautioned that steroids used in different doses against SARS showed both harm and benefits in different studies.
  • “We have been burned before … with exciting results that when we have access to the data are not as convincing,” Kathryn Hibbert, ICU director at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital, told Reuters.
  • “We have to see what the study looks like given the current environment of retractions. I just wait to see the real data, see if it’s peer reviewed and gets published in a real journal,” said Thomas McGinn, deputy physician-in-chief at New York’s Northwell Health.
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