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Exeter Covid patients in drug trial

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Patients in Exeter with Covid-19 are being recruited to the largest clinical trial in the world to investigate existing medicines which might be effective against the disease.

The trial, known as the Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY (RECOVERY) trial, was set up in just ten days and already 15  patients have been recruited in Exeter. It is being run through a partnership between the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. Exeter is one of 157 trial centres being coordinated nationally by the University of Oxford.

There are currently no specific treatments for the disease, but some existing drugs may have some benefits – but they may not. As they are already approved for other uses, the trial is able to start more swiftly than for new drugs which would need rigorous safety testing first. The trial will give the health service the information they need to determine which treatments should be used.

The treatments include Lopinavir-Ritonavir, normally used to treat HIV, the steroid dexamethasone, which is used in a wide range of conditions to reduce inflammation, and hydroxychloroquine, which is mainly used as an anti-malarial drug and the commonly-used antibiotic azithromycin. The safety and side effects of the drugs are well known.  

Dr Ray Sheridan, a consultant at the RD&E and associate clinical professor at Exeter University says: “We don’t yet know if the drugs will work, but it’s heartening to be part of promising research on this international crisis. As a frontline clinician, I beg everyone to do their part to buy us time to develop this research. Stay home, wash your hands and when you must go out, observe social distancing measures.” 

The trial is open to adult inpatients at the RD&E who have tested positive for Covid-19 and who have not been excluded for medical reasons. Patients will be allocated at random by computer to receive one of the medicines being studied in addition to standard care. This will enable researchers to see whether any of the possible new treatments are more or less effective than those currently used for patients with Covid-19.

The new trial has been classed as an urgent public health research study. It is one of a round of projects to receive £10.5 million as part of the £20 million rapid research response funded by UK Research and Innovation, and by the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research. 


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