The first UK frontline NHS worker will today enrol in a new study designed to test the potential of hydroxychloroquine to prevent infection with novel coronavirus.

COPCOV is the largest multi-national interventional clinical study into the prevention of COVID-19 using hydroxychloroquine, which will involve around 40,000 healthcare workers.

The study has launched at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, which are the first of 20 UK hospitals set to participate.

Researchers hope to determine whether hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine can be used to effectively protect frontline medical staff, allowing them to undertake their vital roles more safely.

Accord Healthcare, a UK-based medicines manufacturer, has donated over two million tablets to enable this landmark trial to go ahead.

“Based on the known pharmacology of hydroxychloroquine, coupled with the emerging knowledge surrounding SARS-CoV-2 viral replication and COVID-19 pathophysiology, we were very keen to test the effectiveness of this molecule in a preventative, rather than late-stage treatment setting,” said Dr Anthony Grosso, VP & head of Scientific Affairs, Accord Europe & MENA.

“A large-scale, prospective, randomised, double-blind clinical trial in a high-risk setting is the only way to robustly determine if this medicine can lessen or prevent human infection. Previous studies have not adequately tested this hypothesis; the results of COPCOV are therefore of critical importance to public health.”

“Even though lock-down measures appear to have significantly reduced the current rate of infection in the UK, healthcare workers will continue to be at risk of contracting COVID-19, especially as measures are relaxed,” added Professor Martin Llewelyn, Brighton and Sussex Medical School and lead COPCOV UK Investigator.

“Whilst we wait for an effective and widely available vaccine, the race is on to find a well-tolerated preventative treatment. The results from COPCOV are expected later this year and, if they show that hydroxychloroquine can reduce the chances of catching COVID-19, this would be incredibly reassuring for myself and my frontline colleagues.”