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Aiding the RECOVERY from COVID-19

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As we emerge from lockdown, Barts Health NHS Trust reflects on one of the successful studies that is playing a crucial part in the UK’s COVID-19 recovery, as it assesses treatment options for patients hit by coronavirus.

The Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial, supported by NIHR, was launched in March 2020 and became the world’s largest clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments. The trial expanded internationally in February and now has 181 active sites, with almost 40,000 participants.

The trial aims to identify treatments that could be beneficial for people hospitalised with COVID-19. A range of potential treatments have been suggested and the trial looks at which prove more effective than standard care.

Over the last year, RECOVERY has examined drugs such as dexamethasone which as a result was found to reduce deaths in patients receiving respiratory support, and tocilizumab, which was also found to reduce mortality, in those hospitalised with COVID-19.

Wanting to give their patients access to trials and the latest treatments, Barts Health enrolled in RECOVERY in April 2020 and currently has the third highest recruitment to the study within the UK; a success they can, in part, attribute to their multi-site approach. The study is running at the Royal London, Whipps Cross, Newham and St. Bartholomew’s hospitals. 

Principal Investigator (PI) for Barts Health, Dr Simon Tiberi, was keen to champion the study and to ensure that it also opened across all Barts Health sites. He said:

“It was incredibly important to us to ensure our patients had access to trials and potential treatments. Equity of access is vital, particularly as some sites are located amongst more vulnerable Black and Asian communities, who are at higher risk of infection and death from COVID-19.

“Data from the trial is regularly reviewed so that effective treatments can be identified quickly and made available to all patients. Trialling drugs such as dexamethasone, has meant some of our patients can benefit from receiving treatments they would not otherwise have been given and gain early access to the treatments that later become standard care.”

Research teams and colleagues across Barts Health sites worked tirelessly to deliver the study and offer it to all those admitted with COVID–19. At a time of great fear for most patients and their families, several measures were carefully put in place to inform both staff and patients about the research opportunities open to them.

To support recruitment to Covid studies, Barts Health and Queen Mary, University of London colleagues produced a series of videos in different languages which explain how interventional and observational trials are run, which were also made available via the NIHR website.  They also provided regular web updates about Covid studies open at the Trust as well as producing leaflets and other supporting materials to ensure patients and their families had access to information about COVID-19 research. They also worked closely with the Health Research Authority to develop co-enrolment consent documents. This has meant that patients and their families are able to consider and consent to all their research options at one time, avoiding multiple approaches from staff at a difficult time.          

Many of Barts Health’s patients felt they had benefited from taking part in the trial, such as Karen Delin, who participated in the RECOVERY trial whilst an inpatient at Whipps Cross Hospital. She said:

“I feel so fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to take part in the COVID-19 trial, RECOVERY. Clinical research is vitally important to find out best possible treatments for COVID-19.

The team were kind and supportive and answered all my questions. I’d like to express my thanks to each member of the clinical research team for the incredible hard work they are doing to find effective treatments during this pandemic. I feel very privileged to have been part of this study.”