On the 16 June 2020, the RECOVERY trial announced the steroid dexamethasone as an effective treatment to reduce mortality in patients with severe COVID-19. This graphic in our series with Compound Interest shows how the RECOVERY trial used established chemistry to help tackle a new disease in COVID-19.
The RECOVERY trial started in March 2020, with a simple design to enable multiple treatments across many centres to be trialled simultaneously. On 16 June 2020, it announced the cheap and commonly used corticosteroid drug, dexamethasone, was effective in reducing mortality by 1/3 in ventilated patients and 1/5 in those receiving oxygen. In March 2021, its use was estimated to have saved 22,000 patients in the UK alone.
In February 2021, RECOVERY announced a second effective treatment, toxicumulab. In some patients, severe inflammation plays a role in COVID -19 disease. Both toxicumulab and dexamethasone have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects which may explain why they are an effective treatment for some patients with severe disease.
The RECOVERY trial was the first of its kind – enabling existing medicines to be repurposed and tested for efficacy against a novel disease in an emergency setting. Importantly, the trial has also shown several potential treatments to not be effective – it might not catch the headlines, but sharing this information is valuable for patient treatment.
The trial is ongoing, currently investigating six other treatments. In fact, exactly a year after the announcement of dexamethasone, RECOVERY has announced an investigational antibody therapy to reduce the risk of death in some COVID -19 patients. The two antibodies, developed by Regeneron, bind specifically to two sites on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, neutralising its ability to infect cells. The trial evidence suggests the treatment can be effective in patients whose bodies have not mounted their own antibody response to the virus.
Other clinical trials are looking at COVID -19, such as the World Health Organisation’s SOLIDARITY and Remap-Cap treatments.
Published: 16 June 2021