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RECOVERY trial: the UK covid-19 study resetting expectations for clinical trials

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 28 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1626

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  1. Emma Wilkinson
  1. Sheffield
  1. emmalwilkinson{at}

Emma Wilkinson talks to the researchers who recruited 7000 NHS patients in a few weeks

In a short space of time, doctors and researchers have learnt a lot about how covid-19 progresses in the people infected. There’s even a handful of potential treatments—but no good evidence on whether they work or do harm.

Yet, as soon as this coming June, the RECOVERY trial may be able to provide clinicians with some answers. With 7586 NHS patients signed up from 172 sites around the UK (as of 24 April; live figures are available at, the stunning pace of this recruitment is in keeping with a trial that went from concept to first patient in less than a fortnight.

Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, and his colleagues knew that delays in setting up clinical trials had hampered efforts in treating Ebola. By the time everything was in place the outbreak had passed, and, when the next wave hit, clinicians were back to square one.

So, at the start of March, while watching …

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