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Kent residents urged to take part in COVID-19 study to find new treatments that help recovery at home


As COVID-19 testing has stepped up across Canterbury and Maidstone, people with ongoing coronavirus symptoms or a positive test are urged to take part in a study to find medicines that can help home recovery and stop infections turning into serious illness.

The PRINCIPLE trial is the world’s largest trial of possible COVID-19 treatments for recovery at home and in other non-hospital settings. It is evaluating whether certain commonly used medicines may prevent patients in the community with COVID-19 from becoming more unwell and needing hospital care.

The trial is open to people aged 18 to 50 with an underlying health condition or breathlessness associated with COVID-19, or people aged 65 or above. Participants must register for the trial within the first 14 days of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or receiving a positive test.

Participants meeting the criteria can enrol on the study through the PRINCIPLE website or through their GP surgery.

Dr Vanessa Short, GP at Newton Place Surgery in Faversham, said:

“We know that the vast majority of people who test positive for COVID-19 don't require hospital treatment, so the biggest burden of the illness is in our community. Research being delivered in community settings is essential if we are to understand what are the best treatment options for patients.

“Earlier this month, to minimise the spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant, the government encouraged everyone aged 12 and over who lives or works in the the CT1 and CT2 postcodes in Canterbury and the ME14 1 postcode in Maidstone to take a coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test, whether they are showing symptoms or not.

“Consequently, we are expecting to see an increase of COVID cases in the area and this is an opportunity for more people to take part in this important study to help us find new ways to treat COVID-19 in the community.”

Funded by UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research, the PRINCIPLE trial is testing a range of existing medications that are recommended by an expert panel advising the Chief Medical Officer for England. It is currently trialling the antiviral favipiravir and ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug.

Launched in March 2020, PRINCIPLE has so far recruited more than 5,000 volunteers from across the UK. It has already reported interim findings that inhaled budesonide, a common steroid, shortens recovery times in COVID-19 patients aged over 50 who are treated at home and in other community settings. This became the first widely available drug to treat COVID-19 in the community and can now be prescribed on a case-by-case basis by GPs.