(Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge)

A new trial begins today (27 November) investigating asthma and COPD treatment inhaled corticosteroid budesonide for Covid-19.

The trial is part of the national priority platform trial, PRINCIPLE, which evaluates Covid-19 treatments that can be taken at home by those aged 50 or above in an effort to to speed-up recovery and prevent hospital admission.

Led by the University of Oxford, the trial platform has so far recruited over 2100 volunteers from across the UK.

Commonly prescribed as part of the long-term management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inhaled budesonide has no serious side-effects associated with short-term use.

The trial will be looking at the drug’s potential to treat high levels of inflammation in the airways and lungs in some Covid-19 patients caused when the body mounts a significant immune response to fight the virus. This inflammation is damaging for human cells and inhaling budesonide into the airways is expected to minimise any lung damage that might otherwise be caused by the virus.

Patients enrolled in the study will be randomly assigned to receive an inhaler in the post and the usual standard-of-care from their clinician.

The trial is open to people aged over 50 with certain underlying health conditions, or anyone aged over 65, from across the UK.

“Budesonide is relatively inexpensive, safe and easy-to-administer drug for respiratory conditions that may have a role to play in treating Covid-19. It is only through enrolling volunteers on a randomised controlled trial like PRINCIPLE that we can assess whether there are clear benefits or harms associated with potential treatments like budesonide,” said Professor Chris Butler of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Lead Expert of the PRINCIPLE trial.

“We need many more volunteers to join the trial so we can get the answers we really need to keep people with Covid-19 out of hospital. Like vaccines and preventative measures, treatments have an important role to play in minimising the burden of this disease on society.”

Those with coronavirus symptoms, or a positive test result, can join the scheme from home, over the telephone or via their GP practice from anywhere in the UK.

The other treatments currently being evaluated in the PRINCIPLE trial are doxycycline and azithromycin, which are both commonly-prescribed antibiotics thought to have additional anti-inflammatory properties.

The trial is supported by a vast network of health and care professionals in care homes, pharmacies, NHS 111 Hubs, hospitals and more than 1000 GP practices across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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