Medicine American approach hindering race for coronavirus treatments, says UK expertBlau Medical News
Speaking to The Observer newspaper, Professor Martin Landray said American researchers have been compromising attempts to find a treatment by testing drugs in “an arbitrary, willy-nilly way”.
The UK’s Recovery Trial programme has involved 12,000 patients at several hundred British hospitals.
It has already highlighted one promising new drug and discovered two others which were previously thought to have potential as being useless in the fight against coronavirus.
Prof Landray said practices in the US have meant drugs that could help are yet to be properly evaluated.
At the top of the list is convalescent plasma – blood plasma taken from Covid-19 patients which contains antibodies that could protect against the disease.
Prof Landray said: “Tens of thousands of people have been given convalescent plasma in the US but these treatments were not randomised.
“They just give individuals convalescent plasma in the hope it will work. Vast quantities have been given and they still have no idea whether it helps, harms or has no impact.”
Randomised drug trials find useful medicines by avoiding any biases that may affect clinicians’ judgment.
Thousands of people are given a drug, thousands of others receive a placebo, and the results are compared to determine efficacy.
Using randomised trials, Recovery found the steroid dexamethasone reduced deaths by a third in Covid-19 patients on ventilators, while also finding hydroxychloroquine, and the combined therapy of the drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, had no effect in saving patients’ lives.
Britain, which has received widespread praise for its work in researching potential coronavirus treatments, has benefited from the key advantage of having a centralised NHS, whereas the health sector in the US is fragmented.
“The UK excels beyond measure compared with what’s going on there,” Prof Landray said.