Published: 07 February 2022
Dr Nick Jacobsen, a GP and Principle Investigator for PANORAMIC, found out what it’s like to take part in this ground-breaking antiviral study after he tested positive for COVID-19 and signed up as a trial volunteer.
Finding new antiviral treatments for COVID-19
The PANORAMIC trial is giving thousands of people in the UK access to potentially lifesaving antiviral medication for COVID-19. But among the many thousands of participants across the country who have volunteered so far, there is one with a unique perspective - having experienced the study as both a doctor and participant.
“I started feeling a bit under the weather on Thursday evening - sore throat, feeling tired and cold,” said Dr Nick Jacobsen, part of the team at Newquay Health Centre, where he leads the practice’s research activity, as well as being the NIHR Primary Care Research Lead for Cornwall.
“My family were fine at the time and I always wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at work, so I was sure I didn't have any contact with anyone with COVID-19. I took a lateral flow test which was negative.
“Friday morning I felt more exhausted, and had been awake with a headache and the worsening sore throat overnight. I did another lateral flow test, which came up positive very quickly, so I phoned work and went into self-isolation mode. I went for a PCR test that day, and that came back positive too.
“As COVID symptoms are the same as the common cold for the most part, I had a suspicion it was COVID but couldn't be sure about the contact I had had. It turned out that my youngest daughter was the source via her class mates, and she was completely symptom free. My wife and youngest daughter tested positive on the Saturday.
“I felt very tired and concentrating made this worse. Overall, I wouldn’t have wanted to go on a 10-mile hike, but I was okay.”
Supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula (CRN SWP), Dr Jacobsen and colleagues have been working flat out since December to deliver PANORAMIC. As a result, Newquay was one of the first sites in the country to begin giving COVID-positive patients access to the drugs, which are taken orally at home to help reduce the risk of hospitalisations and death.
“Prior to the PCR result it occurred to me that given my age and symptom onset and lateral flow result, I could enrol in PANORAMIC,” Dr Jacobsen continued. “I phoned the PANORAMIC team helpline to ask how I should go about this and they advised to enrol via the PANORAMIC website, which I did.
“It was really easy to enrol, I just went to the website and followed the instructions. A PANORAMIC trial nurse called me on Monday and a few questions later I had been randomised (randomly chosen) to receive the tablets."
“As a Principal Investigator for PANORAMIC, as well as a number of other clinical trials my core role is to support patients to take part in clinical research. Without this work we would have no new medications.
“I think it’s very important for me as a Principal Investigator to show patients that I too am keen and willing to take part in clinical trials, and to help set an example. It is an endorsement of what we do, and my belief in what we are all trying to achieve.”
Signing up and taking part
Anyone over the age of 50 or between 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition can sign up to the study as soon as they receive a positive PCR or lateral flow test result. They need to be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that began in the last five days to be eligible.
The UK-wide study, which is funded by the NHR and run by the University of Oxford, launched at the start of December 2021 - with over 7,500 participants volunteering to take so far.
However, thousands more are still needed as soon as possible to gather the data necessary on the first antiviral treatment to be investigated, molnupiravir. Taking part in this ground-breaking study will ensure medical experts can learn more about the potential benefits of these treatments and who would benefit most, and will help the NHS develop plans for rolling out the antivirals to further patients later this year.
Find out more
Find out more about the PANORAMIC study or sign up at: www.panoramictrial.org