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Case study: East Cheshire lady takes part in COVID-19 research trial to help future patients

Find out more about the NIHR-supported PRINCIPLE trial.

Platform Randomised trial of Interventions against COVID-19 in Older People (PRINCIPLE).

An adult social care worker who took part in a trial testing potential treatments for COVID-19 via GP practices has explained how she got involved in the research to help others.  

Angela Houghton-Cole participated in the Platform Randomised trial of Interventions against COVID-19 in Older People (PRINCIPLE). 

The research will enable scientists to rapidly evaluate different treatments that could stem the progression of COVID-19 symptoms in people over 50-years-old and help ease the burden on hospitals.

The trial has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the UK government’s rapid research response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Houghton-Cole is in good general health but has moderate, pre-existing conditions. She lives with Type II diabetes which she controls through sensible diet and despite a history of asthma no longer needs inhalers.

She developed COVID-19 symptoms on 30 April 2020 when she began to cough continuously.

“I didn’t have a temperature, but I just couldn’t stop coughing and my chest felt really tight,” said the 52-year-old, who lives in Congleton, East Cheshire, with husband Martin.

“I was sent home from work and isolated myself. The coughing was so severe that I ached for a number of days afterwards and I also had a terrible headache.”

Mrs Houghton-Cole called her GP at Readesmoor Medical Centre in Congleton. In addition to receiving medical advice, she was told she also fitted the PRINCIPLE trial criteria due to her pre-existing health conditions and COVID-19 symptoms.  

Participants in the trial either receive standard care, or standard care plus a seven-day course of a low-risk trial drug recommended by an expert panel advising the Chief Medical Officer for England. The effectiveness of these treatments will be compared to the current best available care. 

Mrs Houghton-Cole agreed to take part after discussing it with her family and was selected at random to receive the trial drug. Her COVID-19 swab was later shown to be negative.

Her participation involved taking a tablet twice a day for seven days while continuing to self-isolate. It also involved completing a 28-day online diary of how she was feeling.

Mrs Houghton-Cole has now recovered fully and is back in work, where she supports adults with learning difficulties and autism. This was the first time she has been part of research. She said: “I did feel better after a couple of days on the tablets, though obviously I don’t know whether or not that was due to the medication. I will be really interested to read about the findings of the trial when they are published.

“My GP sent me all the information and I was able to talk it over with my husband and mum before making my decision. Ultimately, I felt that if I could contribute towards research that will help us better understand this awful virus and possibly help other people in the future, then it was something I wanted to be part of.”

The PRINCIPLE trial has now been expanded, which means patients – regardless of whether or not their registered GP practice is directly involved in the trial – can self-refer onto the trial if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Patients can do this by visiting the website and their GP will be contacted by the trial team to confirm their eligibility.

Patient participation in the PRINCIPLE study  

Patients who experience a continuous cough and/or a high temperature and have had it for less than 15 days are encouraged to consider taking part in the study. Go to or call the study team on 0800 138 0880. Full eligibility details are available at the above link.

Practices interested in carrying-out COVID-19 research

General practices based in Greater Manchester or East Cheshire and interested in carrying-out COVID-19 research are asked to contact NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester on