UK hospitals to test five new drugs in race to find coronavirus cure

MEDICS will trial five new potential coronavirus treatments in 30 UK hospitals as pharma giants race to find a treatment – and one of the drugs is already widely used.

British scientists are looking to sign up hundreds of patients for trials of medicines they hope will prevent Covid-19 patients from becoming critically ill.

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UK hospitals will trial five drugs that could help in the treatment of coronavirus[/caption]

Drugs on trial include heparin, which is used for blood thinning, to medicines still being trialled for conditions including lung disorders, the Guardian reports.

It comes days after World Health Organisation trials of hydroxychloroquine, the drug promoted by President Donald Trump as a cure, were halted.

New evidence found the drug could increase the risk of death among Covid-19 patients.

A study published in the Lancet in May revealed the discovery and the chief executive of the WHO then announced it had stopped trials as a precautionary measure.

What are the five drugs in development?

  • Heparin, a blood-thinning drug used widely. It will be given to Covid-19 patients for the first time next month. Researchers can it can have a “dramatic effect in the lung” when nebulised rather than injected. Academics are understood to be excited about the drug because it’s already used prolifically and is widely tolerated
  • Bemcentinib, a tablet developed by the Norwegian company BerGenBio, which is used to treat blood disorders. Academics say it has a strong antiviral effect which appears to reduce infection in experiments on a number of viruses including Ebola and Sars coronavirus-2.
  • Medi3506, an anti-inflammatory injection being developed for skin disorders and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but which has also been used in trials for asthma by pharma giant AstraZeneca.
  • Calquence, another AstraZeneca drug, used to treat mantle cell lymphoma. It was developed for severe lung inflammation, and there is some anecdotal evidence which appears to show fewer coronavirus complications when it’s taken.
  • Zilucoplan is already in trial for potential treatment of a skeleto-muscular disorder. It can stop an overreaction of the immune system that can kill cells and lead to lung and tissue damage

Despite the setback, doctors and scientists from the Accord programme – which promotes research and development into coronavirus – are forging ahead with new trials.

Respiratory medicine consultant Tom Wilkinson said researchers are looking for a medicine that will “reduce the severity of the disease, shorten its duration and prevent patients going into the intensive care environment”.

But with rates of infection plunging in the UK, scientists must enlist new patients as quickly as possible.

“There are small, rapidly deliverable studies if we get patients in,” he said.

“We’re looking only to achieve around 60 patients for each arm of the trial.”

The drugs will be trialled at hospitals including St Thomas’ – where Boris Johnson was treated after falling ill with Covid-19 – and Guy’s in London.

They will also be given to patients at hospitals in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Leicester and Glasgow.

The drugs were chosen from a list of 200 potential candidates and if they do not work for Covid-19, another batch will then be considered for trials.

Should the trials deliver positive results, they will feed into the later-phase national research programme being run by Oxford University.

Getty Images – Getty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson fell ill with Covid-19 earlier this year, and some treatments will be tested at the hospital where he was treated[/caption]

PA

The Prime Minister was treated for his illness St Thomas’ Hospital in London[/caption]

Getty – Contributor

The five drugs on trial include a well-known and prolifically used medicine[/caption]

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