Giving doses of the steroid hydrocortisone to patients with severe pneumonia cut the risk of death by about half, according to a study released Tuesday. In the study, researchers funded by the French Ministry of Health randomly assigned 800 patients who had been placed in the intensive care unit to receive either hydrocortisone or a placebo. In the hydrocortisone group, about 6% of patients died within 28 days. In the placebo group, about 12% died in the same time frame. There was an absolute reduction in deaths of 5.6%, which was statistically significant.