Trials for a new Covid-19 drug treatment, which could keep patients out of hospital, began yesterday.
Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, is being investigated in the UK as part of the Platform Randomised Trial of Treatments in the Community for Epidemic and Pandemic Illnesses (PRINCIPLE). The research, led by the University of Oxford, is part of the world’s largest clinical trial of possible Covid-19 treatments and would enable patients to recover at home without the need for hospital treatment.
The researchers hope that drug ivermectin may speed up recovery, reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent the need for hospital admission in Covid-19 infections.
Ivermectin is currently used to treat parasitic infections around the world. The drug is known to have antiviral properties, and in small pilots, studies has been shown to reduce the replication of SARS-CoV-2.
Professor Chris Butler, from the University Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and Joint Chief Investigator of the PRINCIPLE trial, said: ‘Ivermectin is readily available globally, has been in wide use for many other infectious conditions, so it’s a well-known medicine with a good safety profile, and because of the early promising results in some studies it is already widely used to treat Covid-19 in several countries.’
This research will properly test the drug’s effectiveness through a randomised controlled trial. The drug is the seventh treatment to be investigated in the PRINCIPLE study, and earlier in the year, the team showed that inhaled budesonide could reduce recovery time from Covid-19.
Professor Butler added: ‘By including ivermectin in a large-scale trial like PRINCIPLE, we hope to generate robust evidence to determine how effective the treatment is against Covid-19, and whether there are benefits or harms associated with its use.’
The researchers have recruited more than 5,000 participants from across the UK, and after completing a questionnaire, all those who are eligible will be enrolled in the study. Patients receive either a three-day course of oral ivermectin treatment or will receive the usual standard NHS care only. After 28 days, the two groups will be compared for the severity of Covid-19 symptoms.
People aged 18 to 64 with an underlying health condition or experiencing breathlessness, and anyone over aged 65 in the UK, can sign up for the trial either online, over the telephone or via a GP practice within the first 14 days of experiencing Covid-19 symptoms or receiving a positive test.