COVID-19 Breakthrough Tracker

Randomised Control Trials are the difference between a promising treatment and an effective proven treatment. This page summarises COVID-19 interventions which have been successfully proven to work in Randomised Control Trials.

As treatment/vaccine trackers get more and more candidates - this page allows you to keep track of the medical breakthroughs that are proven to work.

This page currently covers 3 drugs shown to work in Randomised Control Trials, one of which has both been shown to be life-saving and is in approved use. No vaccines have yet reported large-scale Phase III trial results, but will be updated once they begin to appear. Other interventions (such as RCTs on face coverings), will also be represented here when data becomes available.

N.B. This page should not be used for clinical practice, please consult a physician for assistance in treating COVID-19.

Breakthrough Results by Country

Country # Positive Trial Results # Approved Life-Saving Breakthroughs
πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ United Kingdom 2 1
πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ United States 1 0


Dexamethasone (Corticosteroid)

  • First proven life-saving treatment
  • Efficacy: Reduced deaths by 35% in ventilated group and 20% in oxygenated group
  • Results Release: 16th June 2020
  • Trial: University of Oxford RECOVERY Trial
  • Chief Investigators: Peter Horby and Martin Landray
  • Sites: 176 UK NHS (National Health Service) Hospitals
  • Funding: HM Government (UKRI and the NIHR)

Following a press release, the results are now published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The drug is used off-label by doctors around the world and official medical guidelines have been updated. Specific approval granted immediately in the UK followed by; the US, Japan, Taiwan and South Africa. Quickly after release, the WHO welcomed results.

Dexamethasone is a low-cost widely-available generic drug (in the UK, less than Β£5 for an entire course of treatment, and even lower cost elsewhere). Over the course of 6 months, about 650,000 lives will be saved globally by this discovery.

On 2nd September 2020, a WHO Rapid Evidence Appraisal for COVID-19 Therapies (REACT) Working Group published a meta-analysis of the RECOVERY Trial's finding using 7 randomised trials showing that Corticosteroids reduced deaths by 34%.

The full story of this trial and result is written-up in: "Finding the First Life-Saving COVID-19 Treatment: The Untold Story".


  • First approved treatment
  • Efficacy: No mortality benefit, but shortened treatment time
  • Results Release: 22nd May 2020
  • Trial: Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT)
  • Sites: 100 sites globally (in the United States, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Japan and the United Kingdom)
  • Funding: US NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • Drug Developer: Gilead Sciences

No benefit to mortality, but a reduction in treatment time that can save ICU capacity. Preliminary reports from trials are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Authorised for emergency use in the US, India and Singapore. Approved in Japan, the UK, EU and Australia.

Despite not being life-saving, the drug is priced at $2,340 per patient for wealthier nations and nearly all supplies for the first three months are going to the United States.

N.B. Initial trial of 237 participants (10 hospitals in Hubei, China) - found promising results on treatment duration but there were not enough participants enrolled to collect statistically significant results. This initial trial was funded by various Governmental bodies in China.

Synairgen SNG001 (Interferon beta-1a)

  • First novel treatment shown to be life-saving
  • Awaiting results from larger trials/approval
  • Efficacy: 79% reduction in severity and no deaths in treated group
  • Trial: SG016 (double-blind, placebo-controlled trial)
  • Chief Investigator: Professor Tom Wilkinson (University of Southampton)
  • Sites: University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust Hospitals
  • Funding: Synairgen Plc
  • Trial later adopted by the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration (HM Government)

Initial results found that a novel drug, SNG001, reduced the chance of severe disease by 79% versus a placebo and no patients died in the treated group. These preliminary results are from the the hospital setting (despite the drug being expected to perform less well there), the trial has since been expanded to home settings for treatment of COVID-19.

These results have not yet been published yet in a scientific journal and no regulatory approval has been given. Due to the novel nature of this drug (and inhalation via a nebuliser), it will be more complicated to progress to wide-scale use, than say, dexamethasone.