The RECOVERY Trial, the world’s largest randomised trial of potential COVID-19 treatments, has been announced as the 2021 winner of The British Medical Journal’s prestigious UK Research Paper of the Year Award.
The award recognises original UK research that has the potential to contribute significantly to improving health and healthcare.
The paper, “Dexamethasone in Hospitalized Patients with Covid-19”, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, described the discovery in June 2020 of the world’s first effective, readily available treatment for COVID-19 – the inexpensive steroid, dexamethasone.
The winner was announced on 29 September at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief at The BMJ and Dr Phil Hammond, and attended by RECOVERY Co-Chief Investigators Professor Sir Peter Horby and Professor Sir Martin Landray, the Oxford BRC’s Theme Lead for Clinical Informatics and Big Data.
The nominated publications were judged by the BMJ’s editorial team according to the scale of the problem they addressed, the impact they had, and whether the project took an innovative and original approach.
The dexamethasone study involved 6,425 patients with severe COVID-19, who were recruited from 175 NHS hospitals across the UK. These were randomly allocated to receive either usual standard care, or 6mg dexamethasone daily. The results showed unambiguously that dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third for patients on ventilators and by one fifth for patients receiving oxygen only.
Based on these results, one death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.
Launched in just nine days as an emergency response, the RECOVERY Trial has received widespread praise for its efficient, streamlined design and clear results based on reliable, large-scale data. Its findings have been accepted and adopted by healthcare services around the world.
It is estimated that this treatment may have saved an estimated one million lives globally, including 22,000 in the UK, between July 2020 and March 2021.
Sir Martin Landray said: “This award is not just a testament to RECOVERY’s research team, but the dedication of the countless doctors, nurses and hospital staff involved with the study, and of course the patients and their families who took part. All of these have played an essential role in delivering this incredible result.”
The BMJ’s Head of Research, Dr Elizabeth Loder, said: “The set-up of the trial and the fact that these results were generated under extremely challenging circumstances and shared rapidly undoubtedly changed international practice and improved outcomes for patients.”
To date, the RECOVERY Trial, which is supported by the Oxford BRC, has recruited over 43,000 participants across 187 sites worldwide, and continues to investigate the following treatments for COVID-19:
- baricitinib (an immunomodulatory drug used in rheumatoid arthritis);
- dimethyl fumarate (an immunomodulatory drug used in psoriasis and multiple sclerosis);
- high-dose vs standard corticosteroids;
- empagliflozin (a routine treatment for type 2 diabetes).