Researchers say there should be “no delay” in coronavirus treatments being made available for immediate use after trials have shown them to be successful.
A range of potential treatments have been suggested for Covid-19 using drugs that are already licensed for use in other conditions.
However, it is not known whether any of them will be more effective in helping people recover from the virus than the standard hospital care which all patients receive.
To test some of these, the University of Oxford is running the RECOVERY trial – the world’s largest randomised clinical trial (RCT) of potential Covid-19 treatments.
It is testing the effects of potential treatments for patients admitted to hospital with the disease and over the last two months has recruited more than 10,000 patients from hospitals across the UK.
The researchers say they deliberately pick drugs they knew could be scaled up if they were shown to be successful.
Some of the medications being trialled for use on coronavirus patients are Lopinavir-Ritonavir, which is commonly used to treat HIV, low-dose dexamethasone, a type of steroid, and hydroxychloroquine – related to an anti-malarial drug which US President Donald Trump say he has been taking to prevent coronavirus.
Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford is deputy chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial.
He said: “The aim here is that the result gets out and that changes practice.
“Because of the types of drugs we’ve chosen, that should change practice very very rapidly.
“So if dexamethasone turns out to work, it’s widely available in every hospital in the country, it would then be used as standard of care.
“If it turns out it doesn’t work, it will no longer be used as caring for this particular condition.
“We very deliberately chose drugs, for the first round, which could be rapidly scaled if they proved to work from potential treatments into mass treatment for routine care.
“So there should be essentially no delay.”
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, is chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial.
He told a press briefing on Thursday that a vaccine is needed, as prevention is better than cure, but a treatment is also necessary because it is “impossible” to eradicate the virus.
He added: “It will be with us, probably forever.
“So, you want to reduce the number of victims as much as you can through vaccination, but for those that slip through the net then you need an effective treatment.”
The researchers say the first results of the trials are expected during the course of the summer.