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BACKGROUND: Dexamethasone was approved for use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients early in the pandemic based on the RECOVERY trial, but evidence is still needed to support its real-world effectiveness in heterogeneous populations of patients with a wide range of comorbidities. METHODS: COVID-19 inpatients represented within the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) Data Enclave, prior to vaccine availability, were studied. Primary outcome was in-hospital death; secondary outcome was combined in-hospital death and severe outcome defined by use of ECMO or mechanical ventilation. Missing data were imputed with single imputation. Dexamethasone-treated patients were propensity score (PS) matched to non-dexamethasone-treated controls, stratified by remdesivir treatment and based on demographics, baseline laboratory values, comorbidities, and amount of missing data before imputation. Treatment benefit was quantified using logistic regression. Further sensitivity analyses were performed using clinical adjusters in matched groups and in strata defined by quartiles of PS. RESULTS: Dexamethasone treatment was associated with reduced risk of in-hospital mortality for n = 1,263 treated, matched 1:3 to untreated, patients not receiving remdesivir (OR = 0.77, 95% CI: 0.62 to 0.95, p = 0.017), and for n = 804 treated, matched 1:1 to untreated, patients receiving remdesivir (OR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.53 to 1.02, p = 0.054). Treatment showed secondary outcome benefit. In sensitivity analyses, treatment effect generally remained similar with some heterogeneity of benefit across quartiles of PS, possibly reflecting concentration of benefit among the more severely affected. CONCLUSIONS: We add evidence that dexamethasone provides benefit with respect to mortality and severe outcomes in a diverse, national hospitalized sample, prior to vaccine availability.

Original publication




Journal article


Plos one

Publication Date





Humans, United States, Pandemics, Hospital Mortality, COVID-19, COVID-19 Drug Treatment, Inpatients, Vaccines, Dexamethasone