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British scientists in Oxford work to find coronavirus treatments. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Dexamethasone, a widely available steroid, appears to be a life-saving coronavirus treatment, reducing deaths among the sickest patients in a large, controlled clinical trial, British researchers said Tuesday.

Why it matters: This would be the first treatment with the potential to save lives — and it's an existing, generic drug, meaning it could be widely available and relatively cheap.

  • Oxford researchers leading the trial, called RECOVERY, said in a statement that dexamethasone cut the death rate by one-third among patients who were on a ventilator, and by one-fifth among patients who were on supplemental oxygen.
  • It showed no benefit for the healthiest patients.

Between the lines: While this is a large, controlled trial, the results were made public only in a press release. They have not been peer-reviewed, or published formally at all.

  • These kinds of incremental, one-off statements have clouded the picture of how well other coronavirus treatments work.
  • The Oxford researchers said they are "now working to publish the full details as soon as possible."

Where it stands: Only one other drug has been shown so far to be helpful in treating coronavirus.

  • That drug, remdesivir, helps healthier patients get out of the hospital faster, but does not appear to improve the odds of survival for seriously ill patients. Dexamethasone would be the only drug to do that — so far.
  • Another hyped treatment, hydroxychloroquine, which was touted and taken by President Trump, had its emergency use authorization for coronavirus use pulled by the FDA on Monday.

The bottom line: "If this holds up — this is very good news indeed!" tweeted Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard's Global Health Institute.

Go deeper

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
Sep 23, 2020 - Health

CDC director says over 90% of Americans have not yet been exposed to coronavirus

CDC Director Robert Redfield said at a Senate hearing Wednesday that preliminary data shows that over 90% of Americans remain susceptible to COVID-19 — meaning they have not yet been exposed to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The U.S. surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths this week — the most recorded in the world — and over 6.8 million Americans have contracted the virus so far.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."