Staff and patients at Stoke Mandeville instrumental in development of first coronavirus drug

More than 150 people from Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe hospitals took part in a trial of dexamethasone which has become the first drug proven to be of positive benefit to coronavirus patients.

By Sam Dean
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 3:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 3:26 pm

In the UK-wide trial, 2,104 patients were randomly allocated dexamethasone once a day for ten days and their progress compared with a control group of 4,321 patients who were randomly allocated usual care alone.

The research trial showed the drug reduced risk of dying by a third in ventilated patients and by a fifth in those receiving oxygen only.

Dr Raha West, an anaesthetist and Principal Investigator for the trial at the Trust, said: “In the absence of robust evidence on medical intervention that can benefit our Covid-19 patients, it is paramount to gather data on potential treatments as efficiently as we can. Here in Buckinghamshire, we are focused on recruiting to this crucial trial with the support from our colleagues and patients.”

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file image - Dexamethasone

The University of Oxford’s Professor Peter Horby, the trial’s Chief Investigator, added: “This is an extremely welcome result. Dexamethasone is cheap, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

Katherine Millbank, 55, who lives in Ledburn, took part in the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial during two weeks she spent in intensive care at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Katherine said: “It’s fantastic news that this drug works. Not just for me, but for the researchers, NHS and patients in hospital with this disease. I’m so pleased to find out that something is working to help us fight Covid-19.”

Katherine, who was taken to hospital and tested positive for coronavirus on 26 March continued: “I was so ill that I don’t really remember getting in the ambulance. I still get emotional about it. The virus made me feel weak. I tried to have a sandwich and it felt like I was lifting a brick. I was exhausted after each bite.”

Katherine Millbank

Katherine's husband Paul, who also had the virus but fortunately only experienced mild symptoms, said: “A doctor called to ask if I’d be happy for them to trial existing drugs to treat her and I said ‘absolutely’. We’re all for helping medicine.”

Katherine finally left hospital on 10 April. Watch the video above of her nurse and doctors applauding as she leaves ICU.

The RECOVERY trial is supported by a grant to the University of Oxford from UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and by core funding provided by NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Wellcome, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Department for International Development, Health Data Research UK, the Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit, and NIHR Clinical Trials Unit Support Funding.

The NIHR has nationally prioritised 48 COVID-19 studies. Find out more at