By Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it was launching the biggest clinical trial of possible treatments for coronavirus in the world but a leading health official cautioned that the results were likely a few months away.
Almost 1,000 patients from 132 hospitals had been recruited in 15 days and thousands more were expected to join in the coming weeks, the health department said.
The trial is testing medicines more commonly used to treat malaria and HIV, and is designed so that when further medicines are identified, they can be added to the study within days.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the next round of clinical trials should include new medicines, including those that might be in development for other diseases and might “have a role to play”.
But he was cautious on the timeline for results of the trials.
“I know that there’ll be a question about when are we going to get some results from these clinical trials, and my straight answer to you is: ‘I don’t know.’ I think it’s going to be a few months,” he told a news conference.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said that until possible treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were shown to be effective, the only protection against it was to stay at home.
He said that so far clinical trials had been focused on repurposing existing drugs and steroids for treatment of COVID-19.
“We’ve also set up an expert therapeutics taskforce to search for and shortlist other candidate medicines for trials,” Hancock said.
“We need more patients to volunteer to be part of these trials because the bigger the trials, the better the data and the faster we can roll out the treatments, if – and only if -it’s proven to work.”
(Additional reporting by Andy Bruce and William James, Writing by Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Stephen Addison)