AstraZeneca Plc’s asthma treatment Pulmicort reduced the need for urgent care and hospitalization of COVID-19 patients in a small study, joining a handful of potentially promising treatments for the disease.

Early treatment with the inhaled drug, also known as budesonide, reduced the relative risk of such interventions by 90 per cent over the 28-day study period, according to research from the University of Oxford, Astra’s partner in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Participants also had a quicker resolution of fever and other symptoms.

The findings offer another example of an existing, low-cost medication showing benefits in COVID-19 patients even as more elaborate treatments stumble. One of the biggest successes so far has been dexamethasone, a steroid that has been shown to reduce the risk of death by one-third for patients on ventilators.

“I am heartened that a relatively safe, widely available and well studied medicine such as an inhaled steroid could have an impact on the pressures we are experiencing during the pandemic,” said the study’s leader, Mona Bafadhel of the university’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, in a statement.

The U.K. study consisted of only 146 people. Half received the medication twice a day and the others got the usual care. The trial was initiated after researchers saw that patients with chronic respiratory disease, who are often prescribed inhaled steroids, were under-represented among those admitted to hospitals early in the pandemic, according to a statement.

AstraZeneca shares were little changed at 1 p.m. in London trading.