An asthma drug may drastically reduce hospital risk and recovery time for Covid patients

Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 1:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 1:59 pm
The drug is commonly inhaled by asthma sufferers (Photo: Shutterstock)

A new study has found that budesonide, a drug commonly used to treat asthma, may reduce the chances of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalisation.

The mid-stage study, conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford, also found that the drug was able to improve recovery times when inhaled by patients with coronavirus.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was conducted over a 28 day long period on 146 patients, and found that those who inhaled budesonide saw their risk of hospitalisation or need for urgent care slashed by 90 per cent when compared with usual care.

What is budesonide?

Budesonide is a steroid sold under the name Pulmicort by AstraZeneca, and is traditionally used for treating lung inflammation, as well as asthma.

Researchers were inspired to conduct the Covid-related trial after realising that patients with chronic respiratory disease, who are often prescribed the drug in their inhalers, were underrepresented in figures of those being hospitalised with coronavirus during the first wave of the pandemic.

Initial data saw patients treated with the drug recover from fevers more quickly, with fewer persistent symptoms.

“I am heartened that a relatively safe, widely available and well studied medicine [...] could have an impact on the pressures we are experiencing during the pandemic,” said Mona Bafadhel, lead investigator of the trial.

The findings may add budesonide to a growing list of treatments now available for patients with severe coronavirus infections.

Other drugs used to treat Covid

In July last year, it was discovered that the cheap and widely available steroid dexamethasone was an effective treatment for coronavirus. The medicine is now used as standard treatment for those who end up on ventilators with coronavirus.

Colchicine may be another drug with promising results for coronavirus. It is normally used to treat pain and inflammation in people with gout, and, like dexamethasone, it is cheap and readily available. Though a Canadian study testing its effectiveness was halted too early to be completely sure of its effects, early results suggest a 20 per cent reduced risk of death or hospitalisation.

Along with testing out other treatments, Oxford University's Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy (Recovery) has recruited 6,000 hospital patients for a trial of Colchicine.