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Corticosteroids May Improve COVID-19 Survival

February 3rd, 2021

An international collaboration between researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC, and participating hospitals in eight other countries suggests that patients who have the most serious symptoms of COVID-19 may stand a better chance of survival if they receive a course of treatment that includes corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are common prescription medications used for diseases that cause inflammation such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and many others. This discovery was made through the Randomized Embedded Multifactorial Adaptive Platform-Community Acquired Pneumonia trial (REMAP-CAP), which was originally designed to study treatments for severe pneumonia and has been adapted to include treatment studies related to COVID-19.

The study pooled data from 121 hospitals to study the effects of giving corticosteroids to hospitalized patients who were critically ill and receiving respiratory support with ventilators or other forms of supplemental oxygen. A total of 403 patients were ultimately included in the study, with two groups receiving hydrocortisone and one group receiving a placebo. Trial results found a 93% probability that a course of steroids results in better outcomes than a course of treatment that does not include steroids, indicating promise for reducing symptoms in the most critically ill patients.

Derek Angus, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Pitt, notes that “This is, in many respects, the single clearest answer we’ve had so far on how to manage terribly ill COVID-19 patients. People on ventilators or oxygen and under intensive care should definitely be given corticosteroids.”