Drug Discov Ther. 2021 Oct 28. doi: 10.5582/ddt.2021.01081. Online ahead of print.
Use of systemic corticosteroids is well-established in COVID-19 patients with hypoxia; however, there is scant data on its role in patients with mild disease and prolonged symptoms as a measure to prevent disease progression. The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of systemic corticosteroids in preventing hypoxia (SpO2 ≤ 93% on room-air) among mild COVID-19 patients. An observational study was conducted among symptomatic COVID-19 patients taking oral corticosteroids and attending institute teleconsultation facility between 10th-30th June 2021. Patients who were already on corticosteroids for other indication or required oxygen supplementation before or within 24-hours of initiation of corticosteroids were excluded. A total of 140 consecutive symptomatic COVID-19 patients were included. Higher baseline C-reactive protein (OR: 1.03, 95% CI: 1.02-1.06, p < 0.001) and early systemic corticosteroid (within 7 days) initiation (OR: 6.5, 95% CI: 2.1-20.1, p = 0.001) were independent risk factors for developing hypoxia (SpO2 ≤ 93%). Progression to hypoxia was significantly higher in patients who received corticosteroids before day 7 of illness (36.7%, 95% CI, 23.4-51.7%) compared to ≥ 7 of illness (14.3%, 95% CI, 7.8-23.2%) for persistent fever. Systemic corticosteroids within 7 days from symptom-onset were harmful and increased the risk of progression to hypoxia, whereas it may decrease the risk of progression when administered on or beyond 7 days in patients with mild COVID-19 and persistent symptoms. A well-designed randomised controlled trial is required to validate the findings.