Oxford University scientists determined low-cost steroid, dexamethasone, to be the first drug proven to reduce mortality in severe COVID-19 patients, after a 6,000-patient trial.

Oxford researches announced on Tuesday they found dexamethasone, a steroid commonly used to treat asthma and allergies, to reduce mortality in patients receiving lung ventilation by one third. For patients undergoing oxygen treatment, it reduced deaths by a fifth. No benefit was found in patients who did not need respiratory support.

A total of 2,104 patients were given dexamethasone, either orally or via an IV for ten days and were compared with nearly 4,000 patients who were treated with other drugs. After the 28-day trial, dexamethasone treatment cut deaths by 35% in patients on IVLs and by 20% in those on oxygen treatment.

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result,” Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine and one of the Chief Investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

The same research group earlier found malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to be ineffective against coronavirus after a trial on 11,000 patients in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

CORONAVIRUS FAQ: WIKI OF MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS