QUB leads new research to find best drugs for patients on ventilators

  • Queen’s University Belfast is heading up a new clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of different drugs for helping critically ill patients on ventilators.

    Almost all of us know someone who has contracted Covid-19 by now, and some of us will know someone who developed serious enough symptoms to require hospitalisation. Anyone can develop respiratory problems as a result of the infection, requring oxygen and in some cases mechanical ventilation while their immune system fights the virus.

    Patients who require ventilation can experience complications with thick secretions in their airways that make their recovery slower. Several drugs have shown potential to help manage this issue and improve recovery times for these patients, but we don't have enough data on the current treatment effectiveness.

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    Researchers at Queen's University Belfast are now carrying out a clinical trial to examine the effectiveness of two drugs (carbocisteine and hypertonic saline) that are currently used in UK intensive care units. We don't know which drug is the most effective in this case, and the trial aims to answer that by recruiting 2,000 patients for a randomised trial to be run across the UK.

    The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and will help both Covid-19 patients and others who require mechanical ventilation for acute respiratory conditions. The trial will be offered to ICU patients facing thick secretion problems across Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, and those taking part will be given a treatment at random in addition to the standard treatment.

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    Dr Bronwen Connolly, Chief Investigator for the trial from The Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University said: "Investigating treatments through clinical trials is the safest and most appropriate method for determining their effect. At present we do not know whether these drugs are helpful for critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation. This trial offers us the opportunity to carefully test these drugs and use the knowledge we gain to improve patient care."

    Source: Queen's University Belfast, NIHR

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