Clinical trial launched to help prevent deaths after hospital stays for Covid-19

Sam Russell, PA
·2-min read

A UK-wide study is being launched to help reduce the number of people who die in the months following a stay in hospital with Covid-19.

The clinical trial, named HEAL-COVID, also aims to reduce the number of patient readmissions due to complications resulting from coronavirus.

It aims to identify treatments for the after-effects of Covid-19, with participants to be randomised and given one of two existing drugs – apixaban and atorvastatin – and their progress tracked.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that 29% of patients who are admitted due to Covid-19 return within six months, and more than 12% die within the same period.

HEAL-COVID stands for Helping to Alleviate the Longer-term consequences of Covid-19.

A graphic charting the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England
(PA Graphics)

Study lead Dr Charlotte Summers, from the University of Cambridge and the city’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital, said: “Having survived the trauma of being hospitalised with Covid-19, far too many patients find themselves back in hospital with new or long-term complications.

“Unfortunately, many go on to die in the months after being discharged.

“This trial is the first of its kind to look at what drugs we could use to reduce the devastating impact on patients.”

The trial will enrol patients when they are discharged from hospital, following their first admission for Covid-19.

They will be randomised, given one of two drugs and their progress will be tracked.

It is hoped that a third drug will be introduced to the trial on the recommendation of the UK Covid Therapeutic Advisory Panel (UK-CTAP) in the coming weeks.

The trial is led by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) and the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre (University of Liverpool) and healthcare firm Aparito Limited.

Professor Carrol Gamble, director of the Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to help people in the post-acute phase of Covid-19.

“The trial is designed to allow us to remove or add-in treatment options in response to patient outcomes.

“Every effort has been made to design the trial to minimise burden on NHS staff and patients and represents a true team approach to science.”

The number of Covid-19 hospital admissions in England
(PA Graphics)

The NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “The NHS led the world in research identifying dexamethasone as the first treatment in the world for Covid-19 and this latest trial could help discover new treatments for the after-effects of Covid, helping to rapidly get world-leading therapies to our patients.

“Long Covid can have a significant impact on someone’s quality of life, which is exactly why in addition to funding research into the condition, the NHS has invested millions into opening dozens of dedicated clinics to help people get back to good health.”

The clinical trial is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Cambridge NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.