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 They have not been peer-reviewed, or published formally at all.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

Jun 29, 2020 - Health

HHS secures 500,000 doses of remdesivir

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and HHS Sec. Alex Azar

The Trump administration has secured 500,000 doses of remdesivir, the first drug shown to be effective at treating hospitalized coronavirus patients, ensuring these doses will be for U.S. use.

Between the lines: The administration is not directly purchasing the drug, but it will use coronavirus hospitalization data to determine how to allocate it by state, and state health departments will decide which hospitals will get the drug.

Jun 29, 2020 - Health

Gilead sets price for coronavirus treatment remdesivir

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Gilead will charge U.S. hospitals $3,120 for the shortest treatment course of its coronavirus drug remdesivir for typical patients with private insurance, according to an open letter from CEO Daniel O’Day.

Why it matters: It is the first antiviral drug shown to effectively treat coronavirus in a major clinical trial, and Gilead's pricing decision may set the bar for how future treatments will be priced.

Competitors ready to pounce on TikTok bans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Growing security and privacy concerns over Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok have given a lift to alternatives like Byte and Dubsmash, which have seen spikes in downloads from smartphone users recently, according to data from SensorTower.

Why it matters: If TikTok's meteoric rise in popularity among U.S. youth gets slowed by rising tensions with China, or ended by a threatened ban by the Trump administration, American teens will still have to get their hits of meme-laden video somewhere.