Leading the UK-EU remdesivir study


A team of UK researchers have been leading on an international clinical trial with the EU to test the effectiveness of the drug remdesivir on patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

UKRI’s Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at University College London led the UK and EU study into the effectiveness of the drug, which was originally developed to treat the Ebola virus.

Remdesivir proved not to be as effective as other treatments for Ebola but, in laboratory experiments, it has been shown to reduce the coronavirus infection. It works by blocking an enzyme that is needed for the virus to replicate.

Preliminary results

The initial results were “very promising”, with co-study lead, Professor Sarah Pett, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, saying:

Delivering the results of the first stage of the study is down to the dedication and hard work of the teams in the USA, at UCL, all of the hospitals who participated in this trial, and of course, most importantly, the patients who agreed to participate.

The spirit of collaboration has never been stronger, in this time of urgent global need.

The reward for all of us has been to provide data which suggests remdesivir helped the patients in the ACTT study recover more quickly. This is a foundation on which to build, and these findings will help other patients with COVID-19.

Global trials

Since then, the unit has led the UK-EU international trial into the effectiveness of the drug on patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

It took place in approximately 75 hospitals around the world. EU-participating countries included Spain, Denmark, Germany and Greece.

The trial also took place in the USA, Japan, South Korea, and many other countries.

The randomised controlled trial, which recruited more than 1000 patients globally, aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the anti-viral drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

Preliminary results published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the speed of recovery for hospitalised COVID-19 patients treated with the drug was 32% faster than for those patients who had the placebo.

It was part of the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT-EU/UK) trial, funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA and supported by UK government.

Specifically, the average time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received the placebo.

Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a mortality rate of 7.1% for the group receiving remdesivir, versus 11.9% for the placebo group.

Based on the results of this trial, the US’s Food and Drug Administration authorised emergency use of remdesivir for treating patients who are hospitalised with COVID-19 on 1 May 2020.

Last updated: 28 January 2021

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