Speed Reads

Solving COVID

Huge British coronavirus drug trial could produce results by June

Britain has enrolled more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients, or 10 percent of the country's cases, in a clinical trial to test out several drugs to treat the new coronavirus. The Recovery trial, conducted at 165 National Health Service hospitals, is "by far the largest trial in the world," Peter Horby, the Oxford University infectious disease professor leading it, told The Guardian. With such a large number of subjects, "we're guessing some time in June we may get the results," though "if it is really clear that there are benefits, an answer will be available quicker," he added.

The study has randomly split the subjects into groups of 500 to 900 to test different drugs, with 2,000 patients getting placebos in a control group. Among the drugs being tested — first individually, but later perhaps in different combinations — are the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, the antibiotic azithromycin, two HIV antiretroviral drugs (lopinavir-ritonavir), and the anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone. Horby said his team will include other drugs soon and hopes to obtain a supply of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir.

"We haven't got anything like a magic bullet," Horby cautioned. "I think we have to temper people's expectations about these drugs. It's possible some might have an effect, but it's likely to be modest. I think what we'll be looking at in terms of making a significant impact will be moving on to combinations once we know of things that work." Read more about the Recovery trial at The Guardian.