The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its guidance on the use of corticosteroid drugs in patients with Covid-19 based on findings from a study data analysis.

An analysis of seven international clinical trials showed that corticosteroids mitigate the risk of death by 20% in critically ill Covid-19 patients, reported Reuters.

The analysis involved data on hydrocortisone, dexamethasone and methylprednisolone. It was observed that steroids improve survival rates in Covid-19 patients who required admission to intensive care in hospital.

In a statement, the researchers were quoted as saying: “This is equivalent to around 68% of (the sickest Covid-19) patients surviving after treatment with corticosteroids, compared to around 60% surviving in the absence of corticosteroids.”

Bristol University professor Jonathan Sterne said that the analysis included trials conducted by researchers in the UK, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Spain and the US.

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Data from all these trials indicated that the drugs were beneficial in the sickest patients, irrespective of age, sex or how long they had been ill.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Based on these findings, the WHO updated its treatment guidance to recommend that systemic corticosteroids can be used to treat patients with severe and critical Covid-19.

A statement from WHO said: “We suggest not to use corticosteroids in the treatment of patients with non-severe Covid-19 as the treatment brought no benefits, and could even prove harmful. Treatment should be under supervision of a clinician.

“WHO encourages countries to maintain sufficient stocks of corticosteroids to treat Covid-19 and the other disease for which they are effective, while not maintaining excessive stocks, which could deny other countries access.”

In June this year, the UK Government authorised the use of anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone for treating Covid-19 on the National Health Service (NHS), immediately after the report of positive data from the RECOVERY trial.