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Call for BAME over-50s to take part in “groundbreaking” Covid treatment trial


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Use local pharmacies to recruit volunteers, says professor

University of Bradford Visiting Honorary Professor Mahendra Patel is working with University of Oxford Primary Care Trials Unit to trial new treatments for COVID-19 in older people.

Two antibiotics are being tested: azithromycin and doxycycline, to see whether early treatment can help over-50s recover quickly from Covid, without the need for hospital admission.

Prof Patel will work on the PRINCIPLE trial as its National black, Asian and minority ethnic Community and Pharmacy Research Lead.

Thousands of volunteers are still needed, especially amongst British Asian communities, who are often underrepresented in this type of research but can be at higher risk of developing a more serious Covid-19 illness.

Professor Patel said: “There has to be a more concerted and tailored effort to reach out to black, Asian and minority ehnic communities more effectively in health research, particularly in the case of Covid-19, where we are seeing members of these communities unfortunately experiencing a greater risk of contracting the virus with higher adverse effects and even deaths.

“South Asian communities have a different outlook to engaging with health research and studies, and this may the case be with black and other minority ethnic groups. How you reach out to the different communities is vital to ensure proper understanding and confidence. The more people volunteering [for] these studies, the greater the likelihood for an effective and safe means of tackling the virus.

“Pharmacists play a valuable role in the community and in primary care and there is an opportunity here to use those channels more effectively in recruiting people from all backgrounds into this trial.

“All participants are closely monitored at every stage and would be free to withdraw at any point should they choose to do so.”

The trial is open to people aged over 50 with an underlying health condition or anyone over 65. Those with Covid-19 symptoms can be joined online, without needing face-to-face visits. Delivery of the trial and recruitment of participants is supported by the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Networks across more than 800 general practices.

PRINCIPLE is one of the UK Government’s national priority platform trials on treatments for Covid-19, with over 850 participants already signed up. So far, recruiting people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been a particular challenge.

Lead Investigator Professor Chris Butler from University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “Like other trials evaluating potential coronavirus treatments, recruiting participants into PRINCIPLE who are at most risk of developing serious illness is the best way to understand whether these treatments are going to be effective. Conventional patient recruitment strategies which rely on utilising established national and regional clinical networks often fail to reach those who are typically under-represented in health research.”

Previously, Prof Patel has called for greater awareness of the risks of Covid, delivering, using the slogan: “We are our own vaccine. Social distance, wash hands, wear facemasks.”

Find out more about how to take part at


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