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The University of Southampton

Southampton researchers to lead national COVID-19 antiviral treatment trial

Published: 9 December 2021
Image: NIHR

Researchers at the University of Southampton will help lead a national trial of antiviral treatments for COVID-19 which can be taken safely at home.

Eligible residents across the south are being urged to take part in the first-of-its-kind clinical trial.

The trial, known as PANORAMIC, will rapidly assess a range of purpose-designed antiviral treatments which could help clinically vulnerable people with COVID-19 in the community recover sooner, preventing the need for hospital admissions and easing the burden on the NHS.

These new antiviral treatments are intended for use in the very early stages of infection, by people in the community with COVID-19 who are at higher risk of complications.

Local people can join the study if they are aged 50 and over, or between 18 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that make them clinically more vulnerable. All participants also need to have had a positive COVID-19 test and be within five days of the onset of symptoms.

To enable the benefit of each treatment to be compared against standard care - a total of 10,600 volunteers across the UK are needed to take part in each arm of the study. Half of the participants will be randomly allocated to receive the antiviral treatment plus standard care, while the other half will receive standard care alone.

The PANORAMIC study brings together GP practices, NHS 111, Test and Trace, care homes, pharmacies and other NHS and social care service providers across the UK - who will actively identify potential participants, invite them to take part and support their participation.

Local people who meet the eligibility criteria can also sign-up to take part in the study directly through the trial website:

All participants will take part from their own homes, without needing to visit a clinic or a hospital. Participants randomised to the group that receives an antiviral treatment will have their medicines sent directly to their homes by courier. Participants will keep a daily diary for 28 days through the PANORAMIC website or receive a phone call from the trial team on days 7, 14 and 28 to speak about their symptoms and any NHS care they have needed.

PANORAMIC has been designed as a ‘platform clinical trial’, meaning it can rapidly evaluate several antiviral treatments, as and when they become available. The UK Antivirals Taskforce has selected all the treatments to be tested, the first of which will be molnupiravir (brand name, Lagevrio) - a COVID antiviral pill - which has already been licensed by the MHRA.

The results from this highest priority national study will provide a clearer understanding on how antivirals work in the UK population - which has a high vaccination rate - enabling the NHS to better plan how to make COVID-19 antivirals available for those who would benefit from them the most.

Professor Paul Little, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University of Southampton and Co-Chief Investigator of the trial, said:

“This is a vital trial addressing a major gap in our ability to treat patients who are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness in the community. Antiviral treatments that are quickly despatched to patients to take safely in their own homes could be an important way to manage the illness in more vulnerable patients, slow the spread of the virus, and keep hospital and ITU admissions down.

“The anti-viral drugs only work during the first 5 days of symptoms, so rapid assessment is needed. I would encourage anyone over the age of 50 (or under 50 with other major medical problems) who tests positive for COVID-19 to consider registering for this trial and help us find more ways to fight this illness.”

The trial’s Chief Investigator, Professor Chris Butler, Professor of Primary Care at Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said:

“It is early on in the illness, when people are still being cared for in the community, that treatments for COVID-19 could have their greatest benefit. So far, a lot of the research has focussed on finding out if well-known drugs can be repurposed to treat COVID-19. This new trial will test whether exciting, new antiviral treatments that are more specific to COVID-19 help people in the community recover faster and reduce the need for treatment in hospital.”

Dr Patrick Moore, GP and Associate Clinical Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex, said:

“Research has played a vital role in tackling the pandemic, but it would not be possible without volunteers. Across the south, we’ve had a fantastic response from members of the public who are keen to step forward and take part in trials. This trial will help us to gather vital evidence about treatments in the community to help those most at risk from COVID-19. If you’re over 50, or between 18 to 49 years with underlying health conditions, and have tested positive for COVID-19, I would encourage you to consider signing up to this trial.”

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