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Early treatment with a medication commonly used to treat asthma appears to significantly reduce the need for urgent care and hospitalisation in people with COVID-19, researchers at the University of Oxford have found.

Patient inhaling budesonide

The STOIC study found that inhaled budesonide given to patients with COVID-19 within seven days of the onset of symptoms also reduced recovery time. Budesonide is a corticosteroid used in the long-term management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Findings from the phase 2 randomised study, which was supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), were published on the medRxiv pre-print server.

The findings from 146 people – of whom half took 800 micrograms of the medication twice a day and half were on usual care – suggests that inhaled budesonide reduced the relative risk of requiring urgent care or hospitalisation by 90% in the 28-day study period. Participants allocated the budesonide inhaler also had a quicker resolution of fever, symptoms and fewer persistent symptoms after 28 days.

Professor Mona Bafadhel (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.

Read the full story on the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre website.

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