Oxford University leads world’s largest drug trial for use against Covid-19

An Oxford-based trial is aiming to test the effectiveness of current drugs in treating Covid-19 and has recruited over 5000 patients in 165 NHS hospitals around the UK. Although a single repurposed drug alone is unlikely to provide a cure for the disease, it is hoped that a combination of these drugs, once tested for efficacy, could have a significant impact in beating Covid-19.

The trial is being led by Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at Oxford University and is expected to be the first trial to yield definitive data.

“We’re guessing some time in June we may get the results,” said Horby. “If it is really clear that there are benefits, an answer will be available quicker.”

However, experts have warned that in the case of Covid-19 there will be no “magic bullet”.

Some of the drugs being tested include hydroxychloroquine, a less toxic form of the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, and azithromycin, an antibiotic. Additionally, there is a combination of two antiretroviral drugs used in HIV treatments, lopinavir-ritonavir, and low-dose dexamethasone, a type of steroid used in a range of conditions, typically to reduce inflammation.

These are the types of drugs to be trialled first because their side effects are already well known, allowing for the clinical trial process to be quickened dramatically.

According to Prof Horby, it is believed that a combination of antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs will have the biggest impact in fighting the disease, as well as similar treatments to the ones used in fighting Ebola, such as monoclonal antibodies.

The 5000 patients taking part in the study will play a monumental role in the scientific understanding of the virus regardless of if whether or not the experiment provides an affirming outcome.