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UK’s Chief Medical Officers urge recruitment of more COVID-19 patients for vital scientific research

The UK’s four Chief Medical Officers and NHS England and Improvement’s’ National Medical Director have written a joint letter to every NHS Trust in the country emphasising that more patients need to be enrolled into nationally prioritised clinical trials on COVID-19.

In the letter, the five senior doctors - including Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland Dr Michael McBride - highlight the importance of boosting recruitment of patients to these vital trials which are being delivered through NIHR’s Clinical Research Network.

With sufficient recruitment, useful evidence could be available within weeks, the letter states. 

The CMOs write that "as new admissions fall due to the success of social/physical distancing measures it will become even more important that a high proportion of patients with COVID-19 are enrolled onto trials if we are to improve future treatment."

Because COVID-19 is a new virus, there are no proven treatments. This makes it especially important that as many patients as possible are treated as part of ongoing trials, to ensure evidence can be gathered quickly to show which treatments work and develop the evidence for safety, frequency and dose.

The letter focuses on two of the major trial platforms: RECOVERY and ACCORD.

RECOVERY is focusing on patients who have been hospitalised with COVID-19.  Over 9000 participants are already enrolled, but this is still only 13% of all patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

The letter explains that if recruitment to RECOVERY can be kept high, at around 1000 patients per week, then it could be possible to see useful evidence on how well particular treatments work in less than seven weeks. The CMOs emphasise the crucial importance of increasing participant numbers in speeding up this research to find effective ways to tackle COVID-19.

ACCORD  aims to accelerate the development of new potential drugs for patients hospitalised with COVID-19. Through ACCORD, early-stage trials to test these new drugs are being run. This trial platform is a groundbreaking partnership between government, academia and industry. Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (through NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation, ACCORD is a collaboration between the Government Scientific Office, the NIHR, expert centres in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, clinical research company IQVIA and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. 

The ACCORD platform will build evidence to allow promising new drugs to be considered for inclusion in the two later-stage hospital-based trial platforms RECOVERY  and REMAP-CAP.

Read the full letter