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'Clinical trials crucial to new Covid vaccines in battle against the disease'


This is a blatant sales pitch for clinical trials and I make no apology for it. Every step we’ve taken in our fight against Covid has been pioneered and brought to fruition by research and science.

Every tool used to fight the ­pandemic is the result of invention and collaboration by scientists and doctors. And I believe research can lead us out of lockdown.

Without clinical trials we’d have no vaccines and no new treatments. They have proven the effectiveness of our vaccines, shown that they bring down numbers of hospital admissions and deaths, and curb transmission of the coronavirus.

We’re going to need clinical trials more and more in our continuing fight against Covid. Why? Because they save lives, says Ara Darzi of Imperial College and colleagues in a BMJ editorial. And they’re right.

So what trials are we talking about?

In June 2020, the Recovery trial found that dexamethasone, a relatively old and cheap corticosteroid, improved survival among Covid-19 patients on ventilation by more than a third.

It’s estimated to have saved 12,000 UK lives and 650,000 worldwide.

The REMAP-CAP trial, based in ­intensive care units and designed to evaluate treatments for the sickest patients, has shown that the tried and tested, cheap corticosteroid hydro-cortisone has similar life-saving effects as dexamethasone.


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The trial recruits around 20% of all patients in UK intensive care units but the largest community-based Covid-19 trial in the UK, PRINCIPLE, scrutinises treatments to prevent hospital ­admission and transmission, including the antibiotic doxycycline and inhaled steroid, budesonide.

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To help boost recruitment, PRINCIPLE now allows patients to participate remotely and, in support of improving survival and recovery from Covid-19, it’s important that all hospitals, clinics and general practices treat trial recruitment as a priority.

Clinical trials depend on recruiting participants so that we can keep abreast of new variants.

To this end, the recruitment of patients with Covid-19 must now be prioritised.

It’s imperative trials continue to find new, safe, effective treatments and vaccines and that job falls to the NHS.

That means all eligible patients should be offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial, whenever feasible, so that research becomes embedded in the health service.

In this digital age there are many ways we can help support recruitment into trials including online and smartphone messaging to patients giving them access to trial recruitment advice. Local research champions could also coordinate trial participation.

I believe we can research our way out of Covid.





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