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The world’s largest clinical trial investigating treatments for patients hospitalised with COVID-19 launched in India last month, with the first patients recruited on 16 May. This makes India the seventh country to join RECOVERY following its launch in the United Kingdom in March 2020, in addition to Ghana, Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, and Vietnam.

Since March 2020, the RECOVERY Trial has discovered four effective treatments for COVID-19: the inexpensive steroid dexamethasonethe arthritis drug tocilizumab; a monoclonal antibody treatment, now known as Ronapreve; and baricitinib, an anti-inflammatory drug normally used to treat arthritis. However, as the pandemic continues to affect nations across the world, and with the constant threat of new coronavirus variants, treatments are needed that are suitable for a wide range of patients and healthcare systems. Consequently, RECOVERY International was launched in February 2021 to extend RECOVERY beyond the UK.

Sir Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and Joint Chief Investigator of RECOVERY, said: ‘The opening of the RECOVERY trial in India under the leadership of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) marks an important step in the fight against COVID-19. The world will continue to be challenged by COVID-19 for many years to come and international partnerships such as this provide an essential platform for finding new treatments for COVID-19 and, in the future, other infectious disease threats. Working together, the ICMR and the UK will make a real difference in improving health security for all.’

The RECOVERY Trial’s expansion into India was made possible by a partnership between the University of Oxford, the UK Government, and the Indian Council for Medical Research. The study has initially launched in five Indian hospitals, with plans to expand to about 40 sites in India over the coming months. Present sites include AIIMS Rishikesh, Father Muller Medical College Mangalore, D.Y. Patil Medical College Pune, Sagore Dutta Medical College Kolkata, and Government Medical College Kolkata.

In India, RECOVERY will initially investigate whether empagliflozin, a routine treatment for diabetes, can reduce deaths and improve patient outcomes from severe COVID-19. Because RECOVERY is an adaptive trial, new treatments can be added over time as our understanding of the disease improves.  

Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, said: ‘The need for collaboration on science and innovation between nations has never been more important. The UK is already India’s second biggest research partner and I’m delighted that the UK-India partnership on health is using the combined strength of policy, research, and innovation to enhance global health security and pandemic resilience.’

Funding for RECOVERY India was provided by the UK Government, in collaboration with Wellcome, on behalf of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.