A CHEAP asthma drug cuts Covid recovery time by three days, scientists at Oxford University have found.
Patients treated with budesonide inhalers got better quicker, were less likely to be hospitalised and ended up feeling better once they recovered.
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It’s hoped the over-the-counter medicine, which costs just £14, could revolutionise Covid treatment and help crush the pandemic.
Budensonide is sold by AstraZeneca as Pulmicort and can also be used to treat conditions such as smoker's lung.
Researcher Prof Gail Hayward, who is also a GP, said: “For the first time in this pandemic we now have an effective treatment to offer Covid patients at home.
“For patients at higher risk of severe Covid-19, you can definitely shorten the duration of their illness, improve their well-being and help them stay better once they’ve recovered.
“Home treatments need to have few side effects, widespread availability and be easy to use. Budesonide has all of these characteristics.
“Compared to most other Covid treatments it is also very cheap. It’s a drug that's been around almost as long as I have.“
GPs will be given guidance on prescribing budesonide to Covid patients going forward.”
The inhaler, taken twice a day for 14 days, delivers steroids directly to the throat and lungs where Covid infection usually starts.
Researchers believe it stops the virus multiplying while cutting inflammation in the body.
Home treatment for Covid currently consists of paracetamol and bed rest.
Prof Richard Hobbs said: “This is an effective treatment that can be rolled out across the community for people who are at most risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
“Unlike other proven treatments, budesonide is effective as a treatment at home and during the early stages of the illness.
“This is a significant milestone for this pandemic and a major achievement for community-based research.”
Chris Butler, professor of primary care at Oxford, added: “This is very exciting.
“This cheap, widely available drug helps people recover quicker, stay better once they feel recovered, and improves their wellbeing.
“Medical practitioners around the world caring for people with Covid-19 may wish to consider this evidence when making treatment decisions, as it should help people with Covid-19 recover quicker.”
The medication worked for people of all ages, whether they had underlying health problems or not.
The discovery was made by Oxford’s Principle study, which looked at 4,700 patients across the country.
Researchers are now examining the effects of gout medicine colchicine and flu drug favipiravir.
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