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Oxford man with lung condition takes part in COVID-19 study

Oxford man with lung condition takes part in COVID-19 study

An Oxford great grandfather with lung disease who took part in a study aimed at keeping at-risk people with COVID-19 symptoms out of hospital is urging others to volunteer.

Clive Robinson, 67, of Hinksey Park, took antibiotics for the study after experiencing breathing difficulties and a loss of taste - common symptoms on COVID-19 - in July.

Now he is urging others with symptoms to apply to take part in the trial by registering online with the University of Oxford study or over the phone through 22 participating Oxfordshire GP practices.

The great grandfather-of-nine said: “I felt awful, I couldn’t breathe, food just tasted like nothing. It was nasty. I thought I had COVID-19.

“I was worried that I’d end up having to go to hospital and it made me very depressed.”

The Platform Randomised trial of Interventions against COVID-19 in older peoPLE (PRINCIPLE) trial is testing existing treatments for older patients in the community with moderate symptoms of the disease or a positive test for COVID-19.

Mr Robinson, married to Anne, 65, for 36 years, learned about the study through his GP the South Oxford Health Centre branch of St

Bartholomew’s Medical Centre and was invited to take a COVID-19 test before taking part.

He tested negative but was invited to take part as tests are not 100% accurate and those who test negative could still have the virus.

The trial - funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) - is evaluating whether a short course of antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in vulnerable groups and help avoid hospital admission.

Mr Robinson was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2015, where the lungs become inflamed, damaged and narrowed, causing breathing difficulties. The main cause is smoking, although it can be caused by genetics or long-term exposure to fumes or dust.

Mr Robinson smoked 40 cigarettes a day since he was 21, but cut down to 10 following his diagnosis. He uses a wheelchair as he struggles to walk due to his breathing difficulties. People with underlying health conditions such as COPD are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

Mr Robinson, a former supervisor at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “As I have severe COPD I’m at risk of infections, so I’ve been shielding and staying at home the whole time.

“I called my doctor, who suspected I had COVID-19 and he asked if I wanted to take part in a study. Straight away I said ‘yes, if it helps other people, then I’ll do it.’

“I always try to take part in research because the researchers might learn something from me that will help somebody else.

“I know four people who have died of COVID-19. It’s very sad, especially as they were younger than me.

“I would 100% recommend research. Everybody should consider taking part because it can help people all over the world.”

More than UK 900 GP practices, including 22 in Oxfordshire, are recruiting people aged 50 and over with selected underlying health conditions, or people aged over 65 regardless of underlying health conditions, into the trial. More than 1,000 UK people are taking part.

Those aged 50 to 64 with at least one of the below conditions can apply to take part:

  • weakened immune system due to a serious illness or medication (e.g. chemotherapy)​
  • heart disease or high blood pressure​
  • asthma or lung disease​
  • known diabetes
  • liver disease
  • stroke or neurological problem​
  • obesity

The trial is also screening participants online. This means that regardless of which GP surgery they are registered with, older people with coronavirus symptoms can pre-screen for the trial at home via an online questionnaire to see whether they can be included. Register online and view GP practices taking part at principletrial.org or call 0800 138 0880.

Dr Chris Butler, the study’s lead investigator, said: “By conducting a trial with those suspected of having COVID-19, we generate evidence that is useful for guiding care for such people outside of hospital in the future.

“Some of the treatments we are evaluating may also be useful in other infections in addition to COVID-19.

“Every bit of information about people who were unwell with a probable viral illness during a time of high COVID-19 prevalence is like gold dust when it comes to generating evidence for improving care.”