MEDICS have hailed a £5 drug which will save lives in the battle against coronavirus as a 'silver lining' which exceeded their expectations.

Dexamethasone, a common steroid that costs about £5 for an entire course of treatment, has been shown to cut the risk of death by a third for Covid-19 patients on ventilators.

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It was also found to cut deaths by one fifth for patients who require oxygen but do not require ventilation, after a UK-wide Oxford Recovery Trial.

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and research experts from three hospitals run by NHS Lanarkshire participated.

Dr Manish Patel, a consultant in respiratory medicine, led the study in Lanarkshire along with his colleagues Dr Fiona Burton and Dr Claire McGoldrick.

Dr Patel said: “Following some very difficult months it is amazing to have this silver lining.

“Thanks to this UK-wide collaboration, we now know that Dexamethasone works for the very sickest patients with Covid-19.

"This is the first treatment that is proven to save lives from Covid-19 and can now be used to treat NHS patients.

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“It is great that this treatment is one that is already available and affordable so it can be used immediately.”

Raymond Hamill, senior research and development manager at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “We are really pleased to be part of the Recovery - Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy - trial, which is led by the University of Oxford.

“The aim of the trial is to test whether existing medicines, used for other conditions, can also be useful in treating Covid-19.

“It is a real collaborative effort involving NHS teams across Lanarkshire, Scotland and the wider UK. We are very grateful to our medical director and senior management, both at board-level and in our three acute hospitals, who all gave us their full backing to carry out this vital research.

“Further research into Covid-19 treatments - and into vaccines that can ultimately prevent the infection - remains our top priority."

Lynn Glass, clinical research nurse manager, said: “Although we were all very hopeful, we did not expect Dexamethasone to be the success that it has proved to be.

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“While the incidents of Covid-19 have, thankfully, started to decrease in our wards and in the community, with this treatment, we are better prepared should there be a second wave.

“However, it is important to stress that this treatment doesn’t work for people who are not in hospital or for patients who do not have breathing difficulties.

"People should still follow national guidelines, such as physical distancing, to help prevent the spread of the virus.”