A patient in Manchester is the first in the UK to be treated in a new COVID-19 trial investigating the use of an experimental arthritis drug, otilimab, for severe lung disease related to the novel coronavirus.

The OSCAR study is being sponsored and funded by GlaxoSmithKline and has been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The first dosed patient is receiving care at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), although the study is planned to take place at hospitals across the UK.  At MRI, the study is being led by Dr Andy Martin, an intensive care and anaesthesia consultant.

Up to 800 hospitalised patients with new onset hypoxia requiring significant oxygen support or requiring early invasive mechanical ventilation will be randomised to receive either a single intravenous infusion of otilimab or placebo, in addition to standard of care.

The primary endpoint of the study is the proportion of participants alive and not requiring supplementary oxygen at day 28, with wider study results expected in the first half of 2021.

Otilimab is a monoclonal antibody that had been in late-stage clinical trials as a potential new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The drug is theorised to have the potential ability to reduce the effects of cytokine storm – a severe immune reaction where the body starts to attack its own cells – known to occur in severely-ill, hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

“We are continuing to work hard to find solutions to address the pandemic, including exploring potential treatment options for COVID-19 patients,” said Christopher Corsico, senior vice president development, GSK.

“We know that some COVID-19 patients experience an overreaction of their immune system – sometimes referred to as cytokine storm – which can lead to hospitalisation or death. We believe that otilimab might be able to help counter or calm this process,” he added.

In other news, people across England and Wales will now be required by law to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace from today (Monday 28 September).

The move comes as cases continue to rise in the UK, with 5,693 new cases recorded on Sunday. Fines for those found to be breaking the rules of isolation will start at £1,000 and could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and the most serious breaches.