Oxford University Trial Finds Dexamethasone, a Widely Available Drug, Reduces Deaths in Critically Ill Coronavirus Patients

Dexamethasone is showing promise as an inexpensive treatment for coronavirus.
Dexamethasone is showing promise as an inexpensive treatment for coronavirus.
Matthew Horwood, Getty Images

Identifying treatments for COVID-19 is a top priority among health researchers. The BBC reports that a recent trial signals real promise for a readily available drug to reduce mortality among seriously ill coronavirus patients. It’s called dexamethasone, and it could reduce deaths for patients on ventilators by as much as one-third. But health experts have cautioned that expectations should be tempered until the full study is released.

The trial was led by a team of researchers from Oxford University as part of the RECOVERY initiative, a national series of clinical trials examining the COVID-19 treatment benefits of drugs currently on the market. In a statement [PDF], chief investigators Peter Horby and Martin Landray said that the randomized dexamethasone trial involved 6425 patients hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms. Of those, 2104 were given the inexpensive steroid medication, which has been in use since the 1960s for rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. The drug was administered at 6 mg daily either intravenously or orally. The remaining 4321 patients received standard care.

For patients on ventilators, the drug cut the risk of death from 40 percent to 28 percent. For patients needing oxygen, the risk of death was lowered from 25 percent to 20 percent.

Researchers said that for every eight patients on a ventilator, one life could be saved as a result of dexamethasone. In patients on oxygen, one in 25 patients could be saved.

The drug’s anti-inflammatory effects may help mitigate the damage when the virus stimulates the body’s immune system to the point it becomes harmful, a condition known as a cytokine storm.

For the majority of those infected with the coronavirus who experience mild to moderate symptoms, there is no evidence that the drug has any benefit. But for those critically ill patients on ventilators where the risk of death is high, the drug seems to have a clear and significant effect.

The RECOVERY statement added that full details of the trial will be published “as soon as possible.”

The UK’s National Health Service will make dexamethasone available to all patients. In the United States, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. told CNBC that dexamethasone will likely have an “immediate impact” on patient treatment in intensive care settings and that many physicians are already prescribing it. Further research is needed, Gottlieb said, but he considered the trial “well-designed.” (Full disclosure: Gottlieb is on the board of Pfizer, one of many drug manufacturers that make dexamethasone.)

Currently, the FDA has not approved any drugs for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Emergency use authorization has been granted for remdesivir, which has been shown to lessen the duration of hospital stays in some patients.

[h/t BBC]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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The Northern Lights Storms Are Getting Names—and You Can Offer Up Your Suggestions

A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
Heikki Holstila, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

While all northern lights are spectacular, they’re not all spectacular in the same way. Aurora borealis, or “northern dawn,” occurs when electrons in the magnetic field surrounding Earth transfer energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. The molecules then emit the excess energy as light particles, which create scintillating displays whose colors and shapes depend on many known and unknown factors [PDF]—type of molecule, amount of energy transferred, location in the magnetosphere, etc.

Though the “storms” are extremely distinct from each other, they haven’t been named in the past the way hurricanes and other storms are christened. That’s now changing, courtesy of a tourism organization called Visit Arctic Europe. As Travel + Leisure reports, the organization will now christen the strongest storms with Nordic names to make it easier to keep track of them.

“There are so many northern lights visible in Arctic Europe from autumn to early spring that we started giving them names the same way other storms are named. This way, they get their own identities and it’s easier to communicate about them,” Visit Arctic Europe’s program director Rauno Posio explained in a statement.

Scientists will be able to reference the names in their studies, much like they do with hurricanes. And if you’re a tourist hoping to check out other people’s footage of the specific sky show you just witnessed, searching by name on social media will likely turn up better results than a broad “#auroraborealis.”

Visit Arctic Europe has already given names to recent northern lights storms, including Freya, after the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and Sampo, after “the miracle machine and magic mill in the Finnish national epic poem, ‘Kalevala.’” A few other monikers pay tribute to some of the organization’s resident “aurora hunters.”

But you don’t have to be a goddess or an aurora hunter in order to get in on the action. Anybody can submit a name (along with an optional explanation for your suggestion) through the “Naming Auroras” page here. It’s probably safe to assume that submissions related to Nordic history or culture have a better chance of being chosen, but there’s technically nothing to stop you from asking Visit Arctic Europe to name a northern lights show after your dog.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]