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Why This Common Steroid Could Be Life-Saving COVID-19 Drug

June 18, 2020

British research demonstrating the effectiveness of a common steroid to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients was reassuring to Hartford HealthCare clinicians already using the drug in the system.

The World Health Organization announced the research results for dexamethasone which cut mortality by one third in patients relying on ventilators and by one fifth in patients who required oxygen to treat the virus.

Available since the 1960s, dexamethasone is used to treat inflammation in such conditions as cancer, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation is a common symptom of COVID-19, which pushes the immune system into overdrive when it attacks the infection. COVID patients are typically given doses for 10 days.

“At Hartford Hospital, we have been using intravenous steroids as early as March and initiated this medication on patients early on in their clinical presentation of COVID-19 symptoms based on certain lab values that hinted toward exaggerated immune response triggered by the virus,” said Dr. Faiqa Cheema, assistant director of infectious disease at Hartford Hospital.

The team took the step believing that the anti-inflammatory medication would blunt the body’s “cytokine” immune response, making oxygen exchange and ventilation of the airway easier, she explained.

“Our experience with the use of dexamethasone is purely anecdotal at this time as we are scientifically analyzing our data and do not have hard facts pertinent to outcome and mortality benefit to report as of yet,” Dr. Cheema said. “We are working diligently and fervently to see any association and overlap with this landmark press release.”

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