The United Kingdom said late Tuesday that it has approved dexamethasone, a commonly prescribed steroid treatment, as a COVID-19 therapy.
The approval was announced the same day that University of Oxford researchers said that low doses of dexamethasone reduced deaths in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were on ventilators by one-third or receiving oxygen support by one-fifth.
The steroid did not benefit hospitalized COVID-19 patients who don’t require respiratory support.
Dexamethasone, now approved for use across the U.K.’s National Health Service, is the first drug worldwide that has demonstrated that it can reduce deaths among severely ill COVID-19 patients; however, the researchers have not yet released the full data from the clinical trial, though they said they expect to “as soon as possible.”
The U.K. government said it has stockpiled enough doses of dexamethasone to treat 200,000 people. The U.K. is grappling with a growing number of COVID-19 cases, with about 300,000 people testing positive there and at least 42,000 have died, according to the most recent data aggregated by the Johns Hopkins University.
It has the third-highest death rate after Brazil and the U.S., which have significantly larger populations.