A drug that could help treat coronavirus is to be trialled in patients at hospitals across England and Scotland.
The trials of Remdesivir have been fast-tracked and will take place in 15 NHS centres.
Manufactured by pharmaceutical company Gilead, the drug is one of many being tested across the world as a treatment for Covid-19.
It is a broad-spectrum antiviral agent that has been demonstrated in animal models against multiple emerging viral pathogens including Mers and Sars, which are also coronaviruses.
Gilead has initiated two phase 3 randomised studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its investigational treatment Remdesivir in patients with moderate to severe Covid-19.
The two studies will initially take place at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (adult services), Manchester Royal Infirmary, and Wythenshawe Hospital.
Other participating centres are: Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Also included is King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Glasgow Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Edinburgh Western General Hospital, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
Hilary Hutton-Squire, vice president and general manager at Gilead Sciences UK & Ireland, said: “Gilead started research into Remdesivir more than a decade ago.
“We are now in a position to consider its potential to treat Covid-19 and rapidly progress its development, and these clinical trials will help generate important data on the safety and efficacy of the medication in the coming weeks.”
Dr Siu Ping Lam, director of licensing division of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said: “The MHRA is ready to prioritise and provide any assistance for clinical trials and other regulatory applications in response to Covid-19, in line with Government priorities.
“We have procedures for rapid scientific advice, reviews and approvals and are ready to support manufacturers, researchers and other regulators.
“We have dedicated resources to ensure this happens, as we did during the Ebola crisis when we authorised clinical trial applications within a week.”
Remdesivir is an investigational agent and is not approved anywhere globally.
It has not been demonstrated to be safe or effective for any use.
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at Leeds Institute of Medical Research and chairman of the virus division, Microbiology Society, said: “Given that a Sars-CoV2 vaccine may require several months to develop and scale up, an effective antiviral therapy has tremendous potential to lessen the severity of Covid-19 in the short to medium term.
“Thus, despite the need for intravenous administration, use of this agent in a hospital setting could have a profound impact upon the ability of healthcare systems to cope with this extraordinary pandemic.”