Sign at the front of St Peter's Hospital

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’ in collaboration with researchers in China, and with funding from LifeArc, is set to commence a clinical trial of using Leflunomide, a drug licensed to treat rheumatoid arthritis – in hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

Leflunomide has previously been investigated in a small pilot study conducted in Wuhan, China. Patients with severe clinical symptoms of COVID-19 who were treated with Leflunomide demonstrated favourable clinical outcomes with a shorter recovery time compared to the placebo arm. The study now aims to explore these initial findings in a larger patient cohort.

LifeArc has made £10m available for the development of new therapeutics to support the global effort against Covid-19. Repurposing already available drugs or those in the late stage of development offers the fastest route to bring benefit to patients at this critical time The Research and Development Team at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’ led the charge and secured funding from LifeArc after a successful application to the COVID-19 call to fund a research programme entitled ‘DEFEAT-COVID’.

Dr David Fluck, Medical Director at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’, said: “The global COVID-19 pandemic has put immense pressure on clinicians and scientists to have new treatments readily available for patients. I am immensely proud of our team for their pioneering contribution to designing this study and procuring the funding to execute it from within our Trust.”

The trial is designed according to the World Health Organisation’s overall blueprint trial design document taking into consideration the rapidly changing landscape of COVID-19 epidemic and treatment priorities.

Melanie Lee, CEO of LifeArc commented: “As an independent medical charity with expertise in medical translation, LifeArc could rapidly offer the resources to evaluate proposals and financially support studies with the best chance of improving outcomes patients with Covid-19. We’re hopeful that this funding will help address the urgent need for new treatment options.”