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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Corticosteroids, including Dexamethasone, could reduce mortality among critically ill COVID-19 patients. Photo: Xinhua/Jon Super via Getty Images

Data from seven studies with about 1,700 seriously ill COVID-19 patients found that corticosteroids reduce mortality by about one-third, according to analysis published Wednesday in JAMA.

Why it matters: Corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory drugs, could likely be a low-cost, first line of defense for critically ill coronavirus patients.

  • "In contrast to other candidate treatments for COVID-19 that, generally, are expensive, often unlicensed, difficult to obtain and require advanced medical infrastructure, systemic corticosteroids are low cost, easy to administer, and readily available globally," the World Health Organization said in guidance published Wednesday.

The state of play: The three studies, a meta-analysis and guidance from the WHO recommend the use of corticosteroids among critically ill patients only.

  • This type of treatment is not recommended for those with a mild case of COVID-19.
  • The authors also note it's too soon to know how the corticosteroids work to treat the illness. The data shows, however, that they appear to hinder a fatal immune response doctors refer to as "cytokine storm."

By the numbers: Between February and June, steroids dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone were used on 678 severely ill patients.

  • 32.7% died, compared with 41.5% of patients receiving usual care or placebo.
  • “These trials and the meta-analysis have strengthened confidence, further defined the benefit, and shifted usual care of Covid-19–related [acute respiratory distress syndrome] to include corticosteroids,” according to the JAMA editorial.

The bottom line: For every 12 patients treated with corticosteroids, one life is saved, corresponding author of one of the studies, Jonathan Sterne, said in a JAMA interview Wednesday.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

California governor and family in quarantine after coronavirus exposure

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tweeted late Sunday that he and his family are quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19.

Details: Newsom said they learned Friday that three of his children had come into contact with a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for the coronavirus. "Thankfully, the entire family tested negative today," Newsom said.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 23, 2020 - World

Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries

Waiting, in New Delhi. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

While the 95% efficacy rates for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are great news for the U.S. and Europe, Monday's announcement from Oxford and AstraZeneca may be far more significant for the rest of the world.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca plan to distribute their vaccine at cost (around $3-4 per dose), and have already committed to providing over 1 billion doses to the developing world. The price tags are higher for the Pfizer ($20) and Moderna ($32-37) vaccines.

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