Sir Andrew Pollard talks to Sir Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Director of the Pandemic Sciences Institute at Oxford. He is Co-Chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial of drug treatments for COVID.
Peter Horby talks about his early medical career working with HIV patients in hospitals. He talks about his background in infectious diseases and public health. His work in researching treatments for infectious diseases led to working abroad on tropical diseases and public health. He talks about being part of the outbreak response team in Vietnam for the SARS-1 virus outbreak which had a high mortality rate but relatively few deaths. Peter then explains about his work in an international peer to peer network, ISARIC, for clinical researchers studying emerging infectious diseases and related work on clinical trials in this area.
Andrew asks Peter about his work as Co-Chief investigator with Martin Landray, on the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy) trials in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The RECOVERY trial was designed to investigate multiple potential therapies for COVID-19, differentiating itself from other global studies by its ambitious scope. In contrast to some studies elsewhere, the RECOVERY trial aimed to assess various interventions simultaneously. The trial commenced without a predetermined sample size, initially planning for up to 20,000 patients but ultimately enrolling more than double that number. The trial focused on repurposed drugs initially, selecting existing medications with known safety profiles and reasonable likelihood of effectiveness. The rationale was to quickly assess drugs readily available in hospital pharmacies, such as aspirin and steroids. As the trial progressed, novel drugs specifically developed for COVID-19 were introduced.
The trial focused on repurposed drugs initially, selecting existing medications with known safety profiles and reasonable likelihood of effectiveness. The rationale was to quickly assess drugs readily available in hospital pharmacies, such as aspirin and steroids. As the trial progressed, novel drugs specifically developed for COVID-19 were introduced.
Despite initial scepticism about using immunosuppressive drugs like steroids, the trial eventually revealed significant success with dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available steroid. This safe drug probably led to over a million lives being saved during the early years of the pandemic according to Peter Horby. This unexpected outcome showcased the trial's ability to challenge assumptions and contribute vital information to treatment of COVID patients. The study has now provided positive results on 12 different drugs for treatment.
The conversation continues with Peter and Andrew discussing future challenges in the area of emerging infectious diseases, possible future outbreaks and the need for further research and clinical trials.