Recovery trial finds cheap steroid can reduce deaths from COVID-19

In the UK, scientists have established the Recovery trial to test several treatments for SARS-CoV-2 infection. A preliminary analysis has found that some people hospitalized with COVID-19 were less likely to die when given the steroid dexamethasone.

In the Recovery trial, 2,104 people hospitalized with COVID-19 were randomly assigned to receive dexamethasone 6 mg once daily, taken either by tablet or injection for 10 days. They were compared to 4,321 people who received standard care for the same period. Participants were monitored for up to 28 days.


Analysis found that dexamethasone had the following impact:

  • deaths were reduced by 33% in people on ventilators
  • deaths were reduced by 20% in other people who received supplemental oxygen (but who were not on ventilators)

These reductions in the proportions of deaths were statistically significant. They were not seen in people who received standard care.

Among people who were not on ventilators or who were not receiving supplemental oxygen, dexamethasone had no impact on survival.

Over the entire course of the study (28 days), deaths among dexamethasone users were reduced by 17% overall. People who required ventilation had the greatest benefit from dexamethasone.

Full results from the dexamethasone analysis will become available in the future.

Dexamethasone has been prescribed for decades to treat inflammatory conditions. It is available in generic formulations and is relatively inexpensive.

—Sean R. Hosein


Oxford University. Low-cost dexamethasone reduces death by up to one-third in hospitalized patients with severe respiratory complications of COVID-19. Press Release. 16 June 2020.