A common asthma treatment dramatically cuts the need for Covid-19 patients to go to hospital, a study suggests.
The new research, from Oxford University, also found that the drug budesonide reduced recovery time if people were given the inhaler within seven days of the onset of symptoms.
The findings from 146 people suggested that inhaled budesonide – a corticosteroid sold under the brand name Pulmicort by AstraZeneca – cut the risk of requiring urgent care or hospital treatment by 90%.
Those on the inhaler also saw symptoms such as fever fade more quickly.
Half of those on the trial took 800 micrograms of the medication twice a day while the other half were given usual care.
Professor Mona Bafadhel of the University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, who led the trial, said: “There have been important breakthroughs in hospitalised Covid-19 patients, but equally important is treating early disease to prevent clinical deterioration and the need for urgent care and hospitalisation, especially to the billions of people worldwide who have limited access to hospital care.
“The vaccine programmes are really exciting, but we know that these will take some time to reach everyone across the world.
“I am heartened that a relatively safe, widely available and well-studied medicine such as an inhaled steroid could have an impact on the pressures we are experiencing during the pandemic.”
Oxford said the trial was inspired by the fact that patients with chronic respiratory disease, who are often prescribed inhaled steroids, had appeared less likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19.