Wigan medics and volunteers play vital role in development of new anti-Covid drug

Wigan's hospital trust has played a key role in a breakthrough drug trial in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:58 pm
Dr Ashish

The National Institute for Health Research-supported RECOVERY trial has shown that Tocilizumab - an anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis treatment - reduces the risk of death for hospitalised patients with severe coronavirus.

Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) was one of the 10 highest patient-recruiting trusts in the country for this element of the trial which has also resulted in respiratory consultant Dr Abdul Ashish being asked to be part of the national writing committee for the paper concerning Tocilizumab.

Researchers found that the drug reduces the length of hospital admission and the risk of patients requiring mechanical ventilation.

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“RECOVERY was the first COVID-19-related trial to get under way here at WWL in March 2020 and our trust has been proud to play a significant part in its delivery and offer our patients the opportunity to be part of this urgent public health study,” said Dr Ashish.

“It is very pleasing to see these excellent results which represent another landmark moment in the research response to Covid-19.

“We couldn’t have gathered this vital data without the dedication of staff especially the Respiratory and Research team who have enabled the RECOVERY trial to be carried out at WWL with such enthusiasm, and of course, the patients who have agreed to be part of this research.

“It is a matter of pride for us at WWL that we have been one of the top ten sites nationally to recruit to the “Tocilizumab arm” and have been part of the national writing committee in the research paper detailing the results of this important drug . Our patients have really benefitted from our role in this trial undoubtedly saving lives.”

Across the trial, a total of 2022 patients were randomly allocated to receive tocilizumab by intravenous injection, of these 68 were WWL patients. Results were compared with 2094 patients randomly allocated to usual care alone. 82% of randomised patients were also taking a systemic steroid such as dexamethasone.

The latest results from RECOVERY show that a much wider cohort of COVID-19 patients can potentially benefit from tocilizumab - beyond those critically ill on mechanical ventilation.

The study showed that for every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, one additional life would be saved. Benefits were seen in all subgroups, including patients requiring oxygen via a simple face mask, in addition to patients in intensive care requiring mechanical ventilators

RECOVERY is now the second NIHR-supported study to demonstrate the effectiveness of tocilizumab as a treatment for COVID-19 patients, after results from the REMAP-CAP study last month showed that tocilizumab and a second similar drug called sarilumab have a significant impact on survival and can reduce the relative risk of death for critically ill patients in intensive care.

The RECOVERY study is jointly funded by the NIHR with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). While delivery of the study is supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network and the devolved administrations, working alongside the NHS, who together have helped recruit over 35,000 participants at 177 hospital sites across the country.

Prof Nick Lemoine, Medical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network said: “These latest results for tocilizumab are highly significant and will undoubtedly help save lives - not just in the UK but around the world. They show that tocilizumab - a widely available arthritis treatment - can save lives, shorten hospital stays and decrease the likelihood of requiring mechanical ventilation for hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “These results present another important advance in our fight against Covid-19 and are good news for patients and clinicians around the world - it’s a combination of both effective therapeutics and vaccines that will mean an end to this pandemic.

“The data means many more patients in hospital with Covid-19 will have access to a proven treatment, speeding up their recovery and reducing the risk of mortality significantly.

“It’s because of the UK’s world-class clinical trials infrastructure, including NIHR infrastructure in NHS hospitals, that trials like RECOVERY are able to deliver definitive evidence that will save lives, and I am hugely grateful to all those involved.”