The UK has authorised immediate use of dexamethasone on the NHS, widening access to the first coronavirus treatment proven to reduce the risk of death.

Doctors can now administer the an anti-inflammatory to all UK hospitalised COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen, including those on ventilators.

The move follows data from the UK RECOVERY trial showing that the drug cut the risk death in COVID-19 patients on ventilation by as much as 35% and patients on oxygen by 20%, reducing the total 28-day mortality rate by 17%.

Funded by the UK government, via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Oxford University UK RECOVERY trial is the first clinical trial anywhere in the world to show a treatment provides significant impact in reducing patient mortality.

“The positive findings on dexamethasone follow the disappointing findings on hydroxychloroquine. Together these two results illustrate the power of properly conducted clinical trials and the inherent danger of assuming things work without robust data,” noted deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.

“Whilst tempting to do otherwise, it is always better to wait for the evidence. On the dexamethasone findings, this is very encouraging because the signal on reduced mortality applies to many of the patients admitted to hospitals and the drug is comparatively low priced and available worldwide”.

The government said it has already built additional stocks of dexamethasone, with enough to treat over 200,000 people from these alone.

The drug has also been added to the government’s parallel export list, thus banning companies from buying stocks meant for UK patients and selling them on for a higher price abroad.