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Inhaling budesonide, asthma drug can speed up recovery in Covid patients

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Inhaled budesonide – primarily an asthma drug – can shorten recovery time among Covid patients aged over 50, according to a study.

Early treatment with inhaled budesonide cut recovery time by a median of three days in Covid-19 patients at higher risk of more severe illness, said researchers from the University of Oxford.

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The findings, from the preliminary trial, showed 32 per cent of those taking budesonide recovered within the first 14 days of treatment, compared with 22 per cent in the usual care group. They also reported greater well being after 2 weeks.

The study “has found evidence that a relatively cheap, widely available drug with very few side effects helps people at higher risk of worse outcomes from Covid-19 recover quicker, stay better once they feel recovered, and improve their wellbeing”, said Chris Butler, Professor of primary care at the university’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.

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“We therefore anticipate that medical practitioners around the world caring for people with Covid-19 in the community may wish to consider this evidence when making treatment decisions, as it should help people with Covid-19 recover quicker,” Butler added.

However, inhaled budesonide is not yet recommended as standard care “but can be considered (off-label) on a case-by-case basis for symptomatic Covid-19 positive patients aged 65 and over, or aged 50 or over with comorbidities,” warned the UK National Health Service.

In the study, participants received usual care plus 800Ig of inhaled budesonide (Pulmicort Turbohaler, AstraZeneca) twice daily for 14 days, or usual care alone.The estimated median time to self-reported recovery from Covid was 3.011 days shorter among the 961 patients who took budesonide compared with the 1,819 people who were randomly assigned to receive usual care alone, the researchers said.

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