UK’s NHS Encourages Repurposing of Drugs Targeting COVID-19—Why haven’t we Seen More Activity?

UK’s NHS Encourages Repurposing of Drugs Targeting COVID-19—Why haven’t we Seen More Activity?

Recently, the United Kingdom’s health system, known as NHS, shared their position on the use of repurposed medicines for addressing COVID-19. Introducing recent examples such as tocilizumab, this arthritis drug has been studied on a number of occasions with mixed results; however, most recently, TrialSite reported on the prominent RECOVERY trial sponsored by University of Oxford that the drug in fact lowered the COVID-19 death rate, evidencing some statistically significant advantage for those COVID-19 patients experiencing low oxygen levels with significant inflammation. The use of repurposing in the UK, such as tocilizumab, was supported in 2017 when the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) released a report called ‘Facilitating adoption of off-patent repurposed medicines into NHS clinical practice.’ With an eye on supporting the identification of  COVID-19 repurposed medicinal opportunities via more research and additional licensing constructs for what could be off-label medicine, the NHS sought to bring more systematic rigor and overall exposure to this important activity for the benefit of patient communities. 

Also, NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) and additional organizations authored a report on approaches national agencies could employ to collectively address and action key repurposing opportunities.

What is the Repurposing Medicines Programme?

“A result of this activity comes the Repurposing Medicines Programme, an effort to identify and pursue opportunities to strengthen the evidence base, licensing, supply, cost effectiveness and equitable adoption of currently unlicensed or off-label medicines, where there is benefit to the NHS and patients.”

What is the goal of this program?

Leverage members collaboration to pursue consideration and adoption of repurposed medicines as therapy targeting COVID-19.

What opportunities has the program opened up?

According to the NHS, this program has afforded drug developers and collaborative health systems and research centers the opportunity to test, refine and streamline their approach not to mention identify possibly other candidates for repurposing activities.

Has the NHS looked into low cost generics or economical pharmaceuticals for repurposing for early onset COVID-19?

TrialSite hasn’t been able to track any major COVID-19 trial within the NHS focusing on repurposed medicines such as ivermectin, fluvoxamine or colchicine. But we will continue to monitor.

Call to Action: Check out the document for more information.