COVID-19 treatments could be fast-tracked through new national clinical trial initiative

Thousands of patients could benefit from potential treatments for COVID-19 that will be fast-tracked through a new national clinical trial, the Health and Care Secretary has announced.

This platform will accelerate the development of new drugs for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, reducing the time taken to set up clinical studies for new therapies from months to just weeks and helping to ease pressure on the NHS and ultimately save lives.

Six potential drugs will initially enter the programme, with the first of these beginning phase 2 studies – the stage of a clinical trial focused on the testing of a drug on patients to assess how effective it is and side effects – across the UK imminently. 

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Currently no drugs in the world have been clinically proven to treat COVID-19. But our Therapeutics Taskforce has identified a number of promising candidates. Currently, six different treatments have been entered into national clinical trials and the first is ready to enter the next stage: a new early phase clinical trial platform that we are launching.This is a national effort made possible by government, academia and industry working together.”

Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), this collaborative programme – known as the ACCORD (Accelerating COVID-19 Research & Development platform) – aims to get an early indication of drug treatments’ effectiveness in treating coronavirus and if positive results are seen, these drugs will advance rapidly into the large-scale trials currently in progress across the country.

ACCORD brings together a single, UK-wide clinical trial platform provided by the clinical research company IQVIA and the UK’s leading research expertise through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), to rapidly test potential drugs through early stage clinical trials and feed them into the UK’s large-scale COVID-19 studies such as the RECOVERY trial, currently the world’s largest randomised controlled clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment. It is reducing the time taken to set up clinical studies from months to just weeks.

ACCORD is part of a co-ordinated therapeutic development pathway that the government has put in place, overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and delivered by the UKRI, as part of the overall Therapeutics Taskforce. Further potential treatments will be rapidly fed into ACCORD as the programme rolls out over the next few weeks.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “This initiative will rapidly test the most promising drugs in the fight against COVID-19. Bringing together expertise from across the UK’s world-class research and innovation sectors – from clinical researchers through to the pharmaceutical industry – this national platform will rapidly prioritise and deliver the best potential drugs into clinical trials to discover if they can help people with COVID-19.”