A Manchester man has become the first UK patient to be given an experimental arthritis drug as part of a clinical trial to treat severe Covid-19.
In addition to receiving standard care at Manchester Royal Infirmary, Farhan Hamid has received a dose of otilimab – which is under investigation as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
Mr Hamid, 41, from south Manchester, who is currently in an intensive care unit, was recruited to take part in the Oscar (Otilimab in Severe Covid-19 Related Disease) study on September 11 2020.
The aim of the research is to assess the effectiveness of otilimab in treating severe lung disease associated with Covid-19 infection.
The trial at Manchester Royal Infirmary, which is part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, is being led by intensive care and anaesthesia consultant Andy Martin.
Dr Martin said: “The patients eligible to take part in this study are those experiencing very severe lung difficulties due to Covid-19 infection and are receiving oxygen or ventilator support.
“We are conducting this study to see whether otilimab – which is under investigation as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis – could also potentially ease the effect of coronavirus on the lungs, dampening the impact of the virus on the immune system.”
Funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a UK-based pharmaceutical company, Oscar is one of a number of Covid-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care, with trials already under way in the US.
There are plans to recruit 800 patients globally for the study, and GSK has said it is aiming to conduct the study at five hospitals in the UK.
Those taking part will be allocated into two groups at random, with half receiving a one-hour, single infusion of otilimab, while others get a placebo intravenous therapy, in addition to standard care.
Dr Tim Felton, a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester and clinical lead for all Covid-19-related studies at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The primary end point of this study is that participants are alive and free of lung failure after 28 days – so this research is potentially life-saving.”
Christopher Corsico, senior vice president development at GSK, said: “We are continuing to work hard to find solutions to address the pandemic, including exploring potential treatment options for Covid-19 patients.
“We know that some Covid-19 patients experience an overreaction of their immune system – sometimes referred to as cytokine storm – which can lead to hospitalisation or death.
“We believe that otilimab might be able to help counter or calm this process.”
The results from the study are expected in the first half of 2021.