Dexamethasone - a cheap steroid that can help save the lives of patients with severe COVID-19 should be reserved for serious cases, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday (June 17).
Trial results announced on Tuesday (June 16) by researchers in the UK showed the drug cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill coronavirus patients admitted to hospital.
It has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis.
That makes it the first drug proved to save lives in fighting the new coronavirus disease.
Countries are now rushing to ensure that they have enough of it on hand, although medical officials say there is no shortage of the medication.
The UK's Health Minister Matt Hancock says Britain has increased the amount of dexamethasone it has in stock and on order to 240,000 doses.
But the head of the WHO's emergencies program, Mike Ryan, said the drug should only be used in those serious cases where it has been shown to help.
Preliminary findings shared with the WHO showed that for patients on ventilators, the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about a third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, deaths were cut by about one fifth.
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