Research

Steroids Can Reduce Risk of Death in Severely Ill COVID Patients, New Analysis Confirms

An analysis of seven worldwide trials has found that corticosteroid drugs can significantly improve survival rates of COVID-19 patients sick enough to be admitted into intensive care units.

Treating severely ill COVID-19 patients with these steroids reduces the risk of death by about a third, according to the analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The studies that were analyzed involved a total of 1,700 patients who received different corticosteroids — anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce the impact of an overactive immune system. The findings earned support from the World Health Organization, which has updated its advice on such treatments.

“Thisnewest analysis is another backup of the evidence that we have,” explains JavierPérez-Fernández, M.D.,pulmonologist and critical care director at Baptist Hospitalof Miami. “It confirms that steroids areindicated (as a treatment for some patients). It is of great value for thescientific community to have this evidence. It supports how we’ve been treatingpatients since the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve seen effective treatmentswith the use of steroids.”

But Dr.Perez-Fernandez emphasizes that this treatment is only effective for a certainsubset of COVID-10 patients who are critically ill with respiratory issues. Itis a treatment that requires consultation with a physician.

“Wehave observed significant improvement with these treatments, but I want tohighlight the fact that neither steroids — nor any other treatment that’savailable at this point — is a cure the coronavirus disease,” he said. “It isa great adjuvant therapy — that means it’s an affective addition to existingtreatments — but it’s not a cure.”

He alsostresses that steroids target mostly critically ill COVID-19 patients withrespiratory issues. The authors who wrote the analysis of steroid-use casessaid that the patients received mostly “supplemental oxygen by nasalprongs” and “noninvasive ventilatory support in the form of high-flowoxygen or positive pressure by mask.”

“Theuse of steroids seems to be beneficial for patients who develop respiratorysymptoms,” stresses Dr. Perez-Fernandez. “We’re talking about respiratorysymptoms that mostly that require the need for oxygen. I want to stress thisbecause the studies have shown no benefit, unless you have respiratorysymptoms. I think this point is very important.”

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