WHO to update COVID-19 guidance for steroid drug

The World Health Organization is updating their COVID-19 guidance after a study shows a common steroid can help save critically ill patients.

Trial results announced on Tuesday (June 16) showed dexamethasone cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The drug has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis.

In a statement, WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the result of the study a "lifesaving scientific breakthrough."

The agency added that it is moving to update the clinical guidance, a document aiming to inform medical professionals on how best to tackle all phases of the disease, from screening to discharge.

Although the dexamethasone study's results are preliminary, the researchers behind the project suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in severely stricken patients.

But hours after the study results were out, medical professionals around the world showed skepticism.

South Korea's top health official warned use of the drug for COVID-19 could have potential side effects.

Dr. Kathryn Hibbert, director of the intensive care unit at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital in the U.S., says she is waiting to see the published data, which would help her evaluate the findings and see which patients benefit most and at what dose.