Research and Technology

06.04.20

World’s largest potential coronavirus treatments trial rolled out in UK

A randomised clinical trial of potential coronavirus treatments, the largest currently underway anywhere in the world, has been rolled out across the UK in efforts to race to find a treatment.

The trial is testing a number of promising treatments and, should the science support it, they will be filtered out to NHS patients as quickly as possible.

Definitive results on whether the treatments which have so far proven positive are indeed safe and effective is expected within months and, should they prove so, could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Almost 1,000 patients from 132 different hospitals across the UK have already been recruited for the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial in the past 15 days, with thousands more expected to join in the coming weeks – making it the largest randomised controlled trial of potential Covid-19 treatments anywhere in the world.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation and we are doing everything we can to fight it on all fronts through our evidence-based action plan.

“The UK is leading the way on research in the race to find treatments and we have now launched the largest trial in the world, pooling resources with our world-leading life science sector.

“As one of three major trials funded by the government, this marks a major milestone in our battle against coronavirus and offers renewed hope that together we can beat this.

“The public still has a crucial role to play by staying at home so we can protect the NHS and save lives.”

The RECOVERY trial is testing a number of medicines recommended by an expert panel advising the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty. They include:

  • Lopinavir-Ritonavir, commonly used to treat HIV
  • Dexamethasone, a type of steroid use in a range of conditions to reduce inflammation
  • Hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for malaria

Adult patients who have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are being invited to take part in the clinical trial at more than 130 NHS hospitals across the UK. The trial is specially designed so that as further medicines are identified, these can be added to the study within days.

Professor Whitty added: “The UK has world-leading life sciences and research sectors and, because of our joined up healthcare and health research system, we have been able to get hundreds of patients involved in this clinical trial in just 2 weeks.

“This marks a significant step in identifying treatments for coronavirus that could benefit patients and underpins our science-backed approach to fighting this virus.”

As part of the country’s coronavirus efforts, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has put in place a national process to prioritise Covid-19 research. The RECOVERY trial is one of the studies being prioritised.

The study has received £2.1m from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Health and Social Care, via the NIHR. It represents part of a wider £20m rapid research response investment by the government, aimed at supporting finding innovative ways to tackle the coronavirus virus.

The move further bolsters the ‘research’ phase in the government’s science-led coronavirus action plan.

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