Patients and staff in Shropshire have played a key role in the trial of a drug which has been shown to reduce deaths among coronavirus patients.

The research and innovation and critical care teams at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust, which runs the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, were involved in the clinical trial, run by Oxford University, of the steroid dexamethasone.

Patients being treated in the intensive therapy units and on wards were recruited into the trial. The drug has been shown to cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth. This has been described as a “major breakthrough” in the treatment of coronavirus.

Sister Helen Moore, clinical trials manager and SaTH’s lead research nurse, said: “This is such great news and we are delighted to have played a part in it by recruiting patients to this study and by being able to offer our patients the opportunity to take part.

“SaTH has been successfully recruiting into clinical studies looking at Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Over the last few weeks, more than 1,050 patients have been recruited into various studies, one of which is the Recovery Trial (Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy) led by the University of Oxford, which looked at the use of dexamethasone.”

Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and one of the chief investigators for the trial, said: “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19. This is an extremely welcome result.

"The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”

Dexamethasone is inexpensive and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.

Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health and one of the chief investigators, added: “Since the appearance of Covid-19 six months ago, the search has been on for treatments that can improve survival, particularly in the sickest patients.

"These preliminary results from the Recovery trial are very clear – dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications.

"Covid-19 is a global disease – it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is available and affordable worldwide.”