Current Affairs

Oxford launches human trials for COVID-19 treatments

Researchers at Oxford University have launched human trials for COVID-19 treatment, officially known as the ‘Recovery Trial’ (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy), The Blue reports.

They are trialling two potential drugs on patients who have tested positive for the virus. There is no confirmed cure as of yet.

Adults with the virus can volunteer themselves for the trial, and they will be randomly split between being treated with the first drug, the second one or neither. Comparison between the three groups will determine whether either course of treatment has tangible and positive effects in combatting the virus.

The first drug being tested is Lopinavir-Ritonavir, employed most commonly in HIV treatment. The second is dexamethasone, a steroid with anti-inflammatory effects. Whilst these are the only two drugs being trialled at the moment, more will probably be added to the mix as knowledge expands and the Recovery Trial widens its scope.

The Chief Investigator for the trial is Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford. He said:

“There is an urgent need for reliable evidence on the best care for patients with COVID-19. Providing possible new treatments through a well-designed clinical trial is the best way to get that evidence… All patients [who choose to partake in the trial] will receive the standard full medical care, regardless of which treatment group they are placed in.”

In terms of the ethics and efficacy of this trial, Professor Martin Landray who works in Epidemology and Medicine at Nuffield Department of Population Health, has said:

“The streamlined design of this clinical trial allows consenting patients to be enrolled in large numbers easily and without compromising patient safety or adding significantly to the workload of busy hospitals and their staff. In this way we can rapidly assess the value of potential treatments for COVID-19 and provide reliable information on the best ways to treat patients with this disease.”

The study protocol, which will be useful to investigators around the world, is freely available online.

The trial may be based in Oxford, but it has national implications. It has been classed as an Urgent Public Health Research Study with £10.5 million allocated to it from the Department of Health and Social Care. The trial also has the public backing of Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and NHS England Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis. NHS trusts all over the country have been instructed to support the trial by these two figures. It is one of the first steps this country is taking as part of a national effort not just to mitigate but to actually end this pandemic.