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South West patients part of global remdesivir drugs trial for Covid-19

Staff in PPE

Photo of researcher in gloves

Plymouth researchers are thanking local patients who have taken part in a clinical trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir in the treatment of coronavirus. Remdesivir was recently approved by the NHS to treat COVID-19: the first drug to be licensed for this use in the UK .

The trial took place at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, part of a global study across North America and Europe. The research was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, a world leading scientific journal.

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) is an acute specialist hospital with a large and active Research and Development team, recognising that patients who take part in research have better outcomes. It recruits thousands of patients to participate in research each year, with approximately 600 trials running at any one time.  

It is the altruism of participants that has impacted on clinicians most. John Corcoran, Consultant Chest Physician and Principal Investigator for the study said: “For patients, taking part has allowed them to receive treatment that they wouldn't otherwise have access to, whilst we learn how best to manage the epidemic in the future.”

John said: “Being involved in a research effort like this is hugely positive. For our patients it has been a really beneficial experience as they feel like they're part of something bigger. They are contributing to the successful treatment of people in future who are suffering with Covid-19.”

However carrying out the research is not without its challenges, not least because research staff are having important conversations whilst dressed in full personal protective equipment, with patients who are unwell and afraid.

Photo of research team He explained: “We are recruiting people into studies who are acutely unwell and we recognise that it’s a big step on their part as there’s a heightened level of anxiety.

“So the bravery of these patients should be noted; stepping forward to say, ‘you know what? I want to be part of something bigger and help people’”

Gary Stroud, 55, from Plymouth, took part. He said: “The day I was told about the study I was feeling unwell and depressed and had nothing to lose. Research and testing is essential to medication progression in the NHS and this was an opportunity for me to help. The trial drug could well have helped me and I actually think it did.

“Research is vitally important in finding the best future treatments for patients and this is a way of helping others. Staff explained everything in a highly professional way. They were courteous, informative and very reassuring whilst talking to me.

Research in action on Covid-19 ward “I was extremely impressed with the way the whole research team went about their duties during my time in hospital. I greatly looked forward to their daily visits to administer the trial drugs, not just for the medication that may or may not aid my recovery but also for the company and conversation during what has been a very difficult time for me health wise, emotionally and mentally.”

Gary Minto, Director of Research and Development at University Hospitals Plymouth praised the teams involved: “This has been a huge multi-professional team effort, by the clinicians, junior doctors, nursing teams looking after patients on the ward, our dedicated research nurses, pharmacists dispensing medication and administrative staff who provide a lot of support to manage the study. The commitment from everyone involved has been inspiring.”

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