An analysis of several studies in which steroid drugs were used to treat severely ill coronavirus patients produced results suggesting the steroids significantly help reduce the death rate among the group. The analysis fortifies the results of earlier studies that showed evidence that use of steroids was beneficial to virus patients.
Corticosteroids, a type of anti-inflammatory drug that can tamp down the effects of an immune system that is overreacting, have now been shown to help reduce coronavirus deaths by about one third, as compared to patients who did not receive the steroid treatment.
The study was conducted by a group of scientists and physicians assembled by the World Health Organization. The meta-analysis combined and evaluated the results of seven studies conducted between February and June. The steroids used in the various studies included commonly prescribed drugs like dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, and methylprednisolone. The analysis found that of nearly 700 severely ill coronavirus patients, 32.7% of those treated with the steroids died, and 41.5% of those receiving standard care or placebo drugs passed.
These results create some hope that widely available, inexpensive medications may be able to become standard treatments for severe cases of the virus. Though, the steroids appear to be effective exclusively in already severely ill patients, and will not assist in preventing the disease or treating it during its earlier stages.
One co-author of the study, Dr. Derek Angus, told The Wall Street Journal that it is still too soon to understand exactly how steroids are working to treat the virus, but they seem to lessen the impact of a hyperactive immune response that has been considered a major cause of death in some coronavirus patients.
“It’s almost death by friendly fire. You end up causing more trouble with your own immune system than the virus itself,” Angus told the Journal.