South West NHS researchers support trial proving first COVID-19 life-saving drug

Published: 18 June 2020

NHS Trust researchers in the South West have supported national research which has proved a steroid can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.

The trials of the low-cost dexamethasone, which is said to be a major breakthrough in the treatment of the virus, were joined by the following NHS Trust members of the South West Peninsula Clinical Research Network:

The drug reduces death by up to one third in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications of COVID-19 and part of a worldwide trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work on COVID-19.

The Trusts’ teams joined the trial (named RECOVERY) of the drug, led by Oxford University, as one of 175 hospitals taking part which enrolled more than 11,500 patients in the UK.

The steroid cut the risk of death by a third for COVID patients on ventilators and by one fifth for those on oxygen treatment.

Doctor Tom Clark, Consultant Anaesthetist, study lead for Torbay and South Devon, said: “Contributing to large-scale, national research studies has always been vital to understand what treatments are best to help our patients and this has never been so true as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The findings from RECOVERY will help us better care for our patients hospitalised due to COVID-19 and I’m sure give them more hope at this time.”

He praised research staff and patients: “Torbay Hospital has made a significant contribution to this study and I have been very impressed with the professionalism and work-ethic of the whole research term, including the Research and Development staff, research nursing team and ward doctors without whom we could not have facilitated recruitment into this study.

“The biggest thank you goes to those patients who consented to involvement in RECOVERY; this is an on-going study that is testing other drugs and we hope that future results will also be positive.”

Doctor Fiona Roberts, Torbay and South Devon Research and Development Director, said: “This is really exciting news and great that Torbay has been part of this pivotal and ground-breaking trial. Research is a vital strand of the national strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. These results show we are making progress and we are grateful to our patients and their families agreeing to be part of the trials and a testament to the dedication shown by the research and clinical teams involved in supporting this crucial work.”

The UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “This is tremendous news today from the Recovery trial showing that dexamethasone is the first drug to reduce mortality from COVID-19. It is particularly exciting as this is an inexpensive widely available medicine.

“This is a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease, and the speed at which researchers have progressed finding an effective treatment is truly remarkable. It shows the importance of doing high quality clinical trials and basing decisions on the results of those trials.”

Dr Ray Sheridan, Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and Consultant at the RD&E, set up the RECOVERY trial in Exeter. He said: “It’s fantastic to be involved in a trial that can save lives. This large-scale trial has had an incredibly swift turnaround, which is only possible because of the incredible staff, research nurses and infrastructure of the NHS. We’re all hugely grateful to the patients who have agreed to take part in RECOVERY – they’re helping us to improve treatment and save lives.”

In March the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial was established as a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, including low-dose dexamethasone (a steroid treatment).

Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and one of the Chief Investigators for the trial, said: “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result. The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”


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