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New trial to test drugs for preventing Covid-19 in care homes

Published: 26 January 2021

A new trial funded by NIHR will look at reducing the transmission of Covid-19 and its severity in care homes.

Researchers led by the University of Nottingham are now looking for up to 400 care homes to take part in the ground-breaking trial - called PROTECT.

As part of the trial, they will test drugs that already show promise for treating Covid-19, but use them to prevent Covid-19 instead. They are focussing on care home residents due to their higher risk from Covid-19, and although priority has been given to them for vaccination, the effectiveness of vaccines in this group has not yet been fully established. The aim is to reduce the number and severity of Covid-19 in those homes.

The UK has more than 21,000 care homes looking after 420,000 residents, many of whom have dementia or physical care needs. Up to half of all Covid-19 deaths in the UK have occurred in care homes. If PROTECT can identify an effective drug to reduce transmission and severity of the virus, then this, alongside other measures, could help enable a return to a more normal life for residents and their families, including more liberal visiting policies.

Lead researcher, Professor Philip Bath, said: “Apart from vaccines, there are no drugs for preventing serious Covid-19 and we believe that the PROTECT trial has a good chance of finding one or more drugs that might reduce the awful death rates seen in care homes.”

The £1.7m trial will have a ‘platform’ structure, like the RECOVERY trial, which which has rapidly evaluated candidate treatments for Covid-19 and previously found that dexamethasone reduced death in hospitalised patients with severe Covid-19.

However, PROTECT will randomise care homes (rather than individual residents) to one of up to three drugs or no additional treatment, in a cluster randomised controlled design.

This design allows several drugs to be tested in parallel and for new drugs to be added once older ones have been shown to be beneficial or have no useful effect. Treatment will be given alongside the ongoing vaccination programme.

Experts from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Surrey and Warwick and University College London are also supporting the study.

Minister for Innovation Lord Bethell said: “Vulnerable care homes residents have been disproportionately impacted by this virus and we are working tirelessly to find effective ways of protecting those most at risk.

“This is a very promising development for the UK and I actively urge as many care homes as possible to get involved with this trial, which the government is backing through the NIHR.

“Together, we can play a part in helping to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are given every possible form of defence against the virus.”

Read more on the NIHR Funding and Awards website.

Care homes interested in taking part in the trial should contact the researchers via the trial website or by emailing

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