As the nations around the world continue their efforts to contain the enduring coronavirus as new outbreaks crop up, a treatment breakthrough was found that may offer some hope. Results of clinical trials of a common steroid called dexamethasone released on Tuesday showed that the drug reduced death rates by as much as a third for those with severe COVID-19 infection. Dexamethasone is commonly used to treat inflammation, which sometimes develops in COVID-19 patients as part of the immune system response to the infection.

Part of the RECOVERY (Randomized Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial established by Oxford University, a total of 2104 patients received dexamethasone as part of their coronavirus treatment for ten days, while 4321 patients only received standard care. "Among the patients who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41%), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25%), and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13%)," the study noted.

Researchers concluded that dexamethasone had reduced deaths by one-third for patients with severe infection that required a ventilator, and one-fifth for those that needed oxygen only. However, the drug did not benefit nor harm patients that did not require respiratory support.

Peter Horby, Oxford Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and co-Lead fro the RECOVERY trial stated in a press release: "Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19...The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patines. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide."

Until now, the only drug that has shown effect in the treatment of COVID-19 is Gilead Sciences's (GILD  ) remdesivir. In a study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, remdesivir shortened the recovery time of severe COVID-19 patients.

Total Global Cases: Over 8.25 Million

Total Deaths: Over 445,000

Total Recovered: Over 4.3 Million

Narrowing the Scope

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday stated that the White House aims to narrow its financial support for potential coronavirus vaccines to about 7 from 14, according to Reuters. In addition, the federal government expects most Americans will be able to receive the vaccine free of charge.

"For any American who is vulnerable, who cannot afford the vaccines, and desires the vaccine, we will provide it for free," a U.S. government official stated during a call to reporters, Reuters reports. The official added that the Trump administration is working with commercial health insurers and expects the vaccine to be covered at no cost to the insured.

The U.S. government previously invested $2 billion in three developing vaccines: AstraZeneca (AZN  )/Oxford University, Moderna (MRNA  ), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ  ). The U.S. has also given more than $30 million each to fund projects from Merck (MRK  ) and Sanofi (SNY  ).