New potential COVID-19 drug touted by Oxford University draws skepticism in South Florida

MIAMI (WSVN) - Researchers in England say they have the first evidence of a drug that can improve chances of surviving COVID-19.

The drug, dexamethasone, is a commonly used steroid, and it is being used in South Florida hospitals on desperate coronavirus patients.

Dr. Martin Landray, the co-leader of the clinical trial involving the drug, said, “If we’d known at the beginning what we know now, I think we could have perhaps saved 5,000 lives.”

One South Florida doctor, however, said he remains skeptical of drug’s effect.

Peter Horby, an Oxford University professor, said, “It’s on every pharmacy shelf in every hospital. It’s available throughout the world, and it’s extremely cheap.”

Dr. David De la Zerda, Jackson Health’s ICU medical director, said, “We do use it in sick patients, similar dose that they use, so it’s nothing new to us.”

The cost-effective steroid is the first drug to actually reduce the death risk of the virus according to Oxford University.

Dr. Peter Bach, a U.S. health policy expert, said, “This is only one study, but it is clear from this study that what we know today is that dexamethasone will reduce the risk of death.”

The drug cut mortality by a third for patients on ventilators in the study, and reduced risk of death for those on oxygen by a fifth.

The drug didn’t, however, appear to help those whose lungs were working sufficiently.

“It will help patients with COVID, but I don’t think this is the treatment,” De la Zerda said.

He added that while it can help improve the breathing of patients, there are risks involved.

“It’s a medication that is an immunosuppressant,” De la Zerda said. “Meaning that your immune system will be suppressed, so what we’ve seen is some of these patients may get better at the moment of the COVID, but then they get worse with other infections. We don’t even know the details of these particulars; how sick they were, which type of patients will benefit from the medication.”

There will be a report explaining the methodology of the study released in the coming days.

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