RBWH plays key role in COVID-19 drug trial

Wednesday 6 May 2020

RBWH plays pivotal role in ASCOT clinical drug trial

Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Australian public, the first Australian clinical drug trial (ASCOT) to test the effectiveness of two existing drugs in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 is officially underway. The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) is proud to play a pivotal role.

RBWH is now ready to enrol patients in the trials, while our Pharmacy Department is packing medication kits and distributing them to around 70 other Australian hospitals and more than 10 New Zealand hospitals involved in the trials.

The AustralaSian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT) is testing whether re-purposed drugs are an effective treatment for COVID-19, and may prevent ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and further deterioration.

The first drug is Lopinavir/ritonavir – currently used to treat HIV, and the second is hydroxychloroquine  – used to treat arthritis and prevent and treat malaria.

The RBWH Foundation has contributed significant funding via the Coronavirus Action Fund to support the trials.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of everyday Australians, we are now working on a treatment not only for our own country, but also for use globally,” said RBWH Foundation CEO Simone Garske.

“With a COVID-19 vaccine still likely to be 6 to 18 months away, treatment testing and development is vital.”

Patients are eligible to enrol in the trial if they are admitted to hospital with COVID-19 infection but are not sick enough to require admission to intensive care units (ICU).

Due to Australia’s social distancing policies, there are less than the expected number of patients available for trial participation, but this may change. Researchers are also in discussions with hospitals around the world, about becoming involved in the study.

The trials should be completed within three to four months, although this depends on the number of patients enrolled in the trials.

The trial is being partnered by the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research/Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, the Doherty Institute and Hunter Medical Research Institute.

More potentially lifesaving COVID-19 medical research projects are now in the planning stages and may include:

A repurposed TB vaccine to stimulate immunity of frontline healthcare workers

Defence against superbugs which follow serious COVID-19 infections

Telehealth to reduce anxiety in residential aged care

Blood donor sampling to measure levels of undetected ‘prior’ infections

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The COVID-19 study management committee includes Professor David Paterson, Consultant Infectious Diseases Physician at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) and Director of The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical research; Associate Professors Steven Tong and Justin Denholm, Infectious Diseases Physicians from Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Doherty Institute, Melbourne; and Professor Joshua Davis, President of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and Infectious Diseases and General Medicine Physician from John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle.