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Inhaler reduces COVID-19 recovery time, says study


By April Murphy

Commonly used asthma medication appears to reduce the need for hospitalisation for COVID-19 sufferers substantially.

A study lead by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Edith Cowan University reveals that when the substance budesonide is inhaled, it reduces the recovery time for those infected with COVID-19.

Budesonide is a corticosteroid used in the long-term management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study, signed by mathematician and medical doctor Associate Professor Dan Nicolau and PhD candidate Sanjay Ramakrishnan, a medical doctor, trialled 146 people.

Half of the participants took 800 micrograms twice a day and the other half were on usual care. The findings suggest that inhaled budesonide reduced the relative risk of requiring urgent care or hospitalisation by 90% in the 28-day study period.

The study also indicated that participants had fewer persistent symptoms of coronavirus. Dr Ramakrishnan said the study showed promising results.

“The STOIC trial clearly shows the potential of an effective early intervention in preventing deterioration of COVID-19,” Dr Ramakrishnan said.

He also stated that the possibility of reducing the long-term effects of persistent COVID-19 symptoms is also exciting. This cheap and widely available intervention can be rolled out very quickly across the world while waiting for vaccines to get to everyone.

QUT’s Associate Professor and Future Fellow Dan Nicolau said the researchers noticed early in the pandemic that people with asthma and chronic lung disease (COPD) were not being hospitalised at the same rate as others with COVID-19.

“We hypothesised that asthmatics were already doing something that was somehow protecting them, and inhaled steroids were the only logical possibility,” he said.

Oxford University’s Professor Mona Bafadhel, who led the study, said, “although not the study’s primary outcome, this is an important finding”.

“I am encouraged to see the reduction in persistent symptoms at 14 and 28 days after treatment with budesonide. Persistent symptoms after the initial COVID-19 illness have emerged as a long-term problem. Any intervention which could address this would be a major step forward,” she said.

As well as the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, the STOIC trial was supported by AstraZeneca.

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