The medical community expressed caution when researchers in England said the widely used steroid dexamethasone could save the lives of seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Health experts demanded a full report to be convinced. Now, they have more data to consider, though not yet from a peer-reviewed journal. According to results published on the preprint site medRxiv, the use of 6mg dexamethasone for up to 10 days indeed led to a 35% reduction in the death rate among patients on invasive mechanical ventilation after 28 days of treatment. That said, the 29% death rate for these critically ill patients is still not low, though significantly lower than 40.7% with usual care.
In patients receiving oxygen without invasive ventilation, the drug cut the 28-day death rate by 20%. But among patients who weren’t on oxygen or ventilation, the death rate was 22% higher with dexamethasone. The data invited comparisons to Gilead Sciences’ on its antiviral remdesivir, but at least one analyst cautioned against drawing conclusions until after the two drugs are pitted against each other—and perhaps against a combination of the two—in a clinical trial.
GSK and Clover’s COVID-19 Vaccine Starts Clinical Trials
The COVID-19 vaccine – which is the fourteenth to start clinical trials, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data – is a trimeric sub-unit spike protein developed by China-based Clover that will be delivered alongside GSK’s pandemic adjuvant system.
It is, however, only the second protein sub-unit vaccine to start trials after a Novavax candidate, which started a phase 1/2 trial in May, and is based on a full length recombinant glycoprotein from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, given with the biotech’s Matrix M adjuvant.
Results of the initial study in 150 healthy volunteers – to be conducted in Australia – are due next month and, in parallel, planning has begun for a phase 2b/3 efficacy trial later in the year.