Dexamethasone reduces COVID-19 patient deaths by one-third, study shows

A clinical trial has shown that an inexpensive steroid called dexamethasone could prevent death in one out of eight ventilated COVID-19 patients and one out of 25 patients receiving oxygen only.

A trial launched in March 2020 has released its results, finding that dexamethasone reduced deaths of ventilated COVID-19 patients by one-third.

The RECOVERY trial was established as a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, including low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone. Over 11,500 patients have been enrolled from over 175 National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK.

On 8 June, recruitment to the dexamethasone arm was halted since, in the view of the trial Steering Committee, sufficient patients had been enrolled to establish whether or not the drug had a meaningful benefit.

Watch the latest on-demand webinar on ‘A 360 overview of data Integrity in life sciences’ supported by OSIsoft

Our one-hour session covers why the trustworthiness in data is critical for operations within the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries, whether it is for compliance, operational excellence, reporting or development.


A total of 2,104 patients were randomised to receive 6mg dexamethasone once per day (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for 10 days and were compared with 4,321 patients randomised to usual care alone. Among the patients who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41 percent), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25 percent) and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13 percent).

The trial revealed that dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support.

The researchers conclude that based on these results, one death could be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.

Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford and one of the Chief Investigators for the trial, said: “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result. The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

Writing about COVID-19

As well as building up a resource of information and analysis on COVID-19, we want to ensure that we pass on any tips about what can go wrong when writing about this subject: and how to get it right! If you have experience in writing about this area and feel you have advice that would help others, please contact us at:

We’d also like to hear from you at that address if you would like to regularly contribute links to the site. If you just want to suggest links on an occasional basis, please send them to: