Inhaled asthma drug 'shortens Covid recovery and could be significant for world'
The drug has been shown to significantly help the recovery of those who don't need hospital treatment
Scientists at Oxford University have found that budesonide, an inhaled drug commonly used to treat asthma, can help quicken recovery for over-50s by three days.
The drug, which is cheap and readily available, is administered via an inhaler twice a day for up to two weeks, and can be prescribed by GPs to their patients. This has given the medical community hope that patients will be able to be treated for Covid at home early in their illness, potentially reducing the number of hospital admissions.
As a result of the findings, the Department for Health and Social Care has begun rolling out budesonide across the country through the NHS, which has also issued new advice and guidance saying that the drug should be considered on a "case-by-case basis."
The research has been hailed as a major breakthrough in treating the virus outside of hospitals. In a media briefing, co-principal investigator in the trial and professor at Oxford, Gail Hayward, described the findings as having "significant implications for the world."
Hayward said: "I think this does have significant implications for the world as this is the first time a treatment has been shown to be beneficial for patients in their community.
“The majority of patients who get Covid are in the community. Something that can help them feel better three days sooner is significant.”
In the study, 751 people with Covid-19 were treated with budesonide at home over a two week period, and their recovery was then compared with 1,028 patients who were given standard NHS care. All the patients were from two vulnerable groups (over 65s, and 50-64 year olds with other health factors), and the study found that the group given budesonide recovered 3.01 days quicker than those who weren't given the asthma drug.
Chris Butler, who was a joint chief investigator on the trial, said that the drug “helps people at higher risk of worse outcomes from Covid-19 recover quicker, stay better once they feel recovered, and improves their wellbeing.”
The aim now is to start assessing the impact of budesonide on patients in other age and vulnerability groups.