'Gold standard' trials will be key to plan to tackle coronavirus

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Research into a treatment for coronavirus is “essential to our plan” for tackling the epidemic, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as he announced the UK was carrying out world-leading trials into the disease.

Speaking at the daily briefing in Downing Street today, Mr Hancock said more patients were need to take part in trials, which could be key in finding the best way to cure the virus.

It came as a further 42 people died from the disease in Yorkshire, bringing the total to at least 204.

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Nationally, the death toll has increased by 684 to 3,645 fatalities.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: PAHealth Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: PA
Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: PA | pa

Mr Hancock said: “We are bringing together some of the finest research minds in the country to design new trials and we’re delivering them at record pace

“We have established three national clinical trials covering each major stage of the disease – primary care, hospital care and critical care for the most seriously ill.

“Just like the Nightingale hospital, one of these was put together in just nine days which is breathtaking speed.

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“These trials are looking at the effectiveness of existing drugs and steroids, re-purposed for treatment for Covid-19.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor, Jonathan Van-Tam. Photo: PADeputy Chief Medical Officer Professor, Jonathan Van-Tam. Photo: PA
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor, Jonathan Van-Tam. Photo: PA | pa

“One of the trials, which is called recovery and deals in hospital care, is the largest of its kind in the world, with 926 patients involved.”

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Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said it would be months before results are achieved through the trials.

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He said: “I know that there will be a question about when are we going to get some results from these clinical trials.

“And my straight answer to you is I don’t know. I think it’s going to be a few months but it will all depend on how quickly patients are recruited into the trials across the NHS.

“The faster we go in getting bigger numbers in the trials, the clearer and more emphatic and more granular signals we will get about what works and who it works for.”

He added: “This is a new disease where at the moment we do not have any proven treatments.

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“The UK is absolutely determined, however, to find effective treatments for this virus disease.

“Weeks ago, we began to look at clinical trials. We may not have publicised it at that point but a lot of work has been going on for weeks behind the scenes.

“Clinical trials are a gold standard way to discover if a treatment works or not, but saying whether it works or not is rather too simplistic.

“The treatment has to be effective, it also has to be safe and we also have to understand the right dosage to use, the right patients to give the treatment to and the right time in the illness to give that treatment.”

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Prof Van-Tam added: “This is complicated stuff and the only way to unpick the signal and make sure we get it right is through clinical trials.”


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