Coronavirus cases are continuing to grow across the globe, with scientists working to understand the new – novel – virus. As it is a never before seen coronavirus, there are no vaccines or treatments for it.
In a press conference from Downing Street on Tuesday, England Health Service official Stephen Powis said the first person has been recruited into clinical trails on drug to fight coronavirus.
National medical director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, was asked whether anti-malarial medication chloroquine – which the UK has placed under an export ban – was being considered for use to treat coronavirus.
He said: “There are number of drugs where there is a lot of interest that they may potentially have an effect in the treatment of the virus and the ones that you mentioned – which are chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – those are drugs that, as you say, have been used in malaria are on that list.
“There is a lot of interest both internationally and also in the UK to learn how those drugs might be used. Here in the UK we want to do as much as we possibly can within the context of clinical trials.
“We have excellent networks already set up to be able to do clinical trials and it’s important that we do that to absolutely learn where the drugs potentially work and where they don’t.”
Clinical trials: What are clinical trials?
What are clinical trials?
According to the NHS: “A clinical trial compares the effects of 1 treatment with another. It may involve patients, healthy people, or both.”
All clinical trials of new medicines go through a series of phases to test whether they’re safe and whether they work.
The medicines will usually be tested against another treatment called a control.
There is no typical length of time it takes for a drug to be tested and approved. It might take 10 to 15 years or more.
However, with the urgency of coronavirus it could in fact be fast-tracked.
Clinical trials: A new hospital is being constructed in the ExCeL centre, London
How will clinical trials help in coronavirus outbreak? Can you sign up?
With no known cure or vaccine for coronavirus, clinical trials can help scientists understand the disease and work towards medication for it.
In the UK there are six projects receiving funding from the Government which are supporting and encouraging the UK’s world-class researchers and experts to speed up coronavirus research including developing new vaccines and treatments.
Research can also help to determine who is most at risk, if immunity is built up after having coronavirus and the impacts on a range of people.
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Alongside the clinical trials, other projects include:
- repurposing existing therapies. Patients being treated by the NHS for coronavirus are taking part in a new clinical trial to test existing therapies developed for other conditions such as HIV. These therapies might help improve patients’ recovery
- developing antibodies that target coronavirus. Researchers are aiming to develop a new coronavirus therapy by developing antibodies that target the disease – doing so will help treat a range of coronavirus infections and help people’s immune systems recognise the disease and destroy it
- testing approved drugs. Researchers will test around 1,000 approved drugs on cells in laboratory conditions to determine if they might be able to treat the disease
- answering urgent questions relating to coronavirus. Scientists will collect samples and data from patients diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK to answer important questions including which peoples have a higher risk of severe illness, the best way to diagnose the disease, how their immune systems are coping, and closely monitoring the effects of drugs being used. The data could help control the outbreak and improve treatments for patients
Clinical trials: The number of cases globally is growing by the day
Clinical trials: Social distancing is being enforced to prevent further spread
If you want to participate in coronavirus clinical trials, there are ways for you to do so.
Any COVID-19 trials which are open for enrolment should be registered on a public site and you may wish to search these websites:
Here is some advice from the NHS on signing up for clinical trials:
Some clinical trials offer payment, which can vary from hundreds to thousands of pounds depending on what’s involved and expected from you.
Some trials do not offer payment and just cover your travel expenses.
It’s important to find out about the inconvenience and risks involved before you sign up, and to carefully weigh up whether it’s worth it.
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