World-first COVID-19 clinical trial exceeds expectations in NI – Swann

Date published: 25 March 2022

Health Minister Robin Swann thanks NI researchers involved in the ground-breaking PANORAMIC study of new antiviral treatments for COVID-19.

More than 850 people from Northern Ireland are included in the 19,000 across the UK who have signed up for the world-leading University of Oxford study which has been set up to rapidly evaluate antiviral treatments that could help people at high risk of COVID-19 to recover sooner, preventing the need for hospital admission.

The Minister praised the work of the trial team based at the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (NICRN) in Belfast: “PANORAMIC has been the fastest recruiting clinical trial on record in the UK and people in Northern Ireland have responded enthusiastically to take part in this research, exceeding the numbers that would have been expected given our population.

 “It’s very encouraging that patients in Northern Ireland have participated and continue to sign up to the study. I commend the considerable effort required to rapidly establish and support this study, and the resilience and dedication the NICRN and NI PANORAMIC team have shown in the face of the pandemic and its challenges.

 “It’s an incredible achievement and the results from this study will help us to understand how best to make antiviral treatments available to people and who would benefit from them most in the future.  Of course, vaccination remains the primary defence against the effects of COVID-19 and I would encourage everyone who has not already done so to come forward for vaccination as soon as possible.”

 Since mid-December, the oral antiviral molnupiravir has been available through the study to patients at higher risk from COVID-19 infection. Professor Chris Butler, the Chief Investigator in the UK for the PANORAMIC study said: “The Northern Ireland PANORAMIC team have been making history through their stellar contribution to recruiting people to take part in the study. We are so grateful for such willing support from the Northern Ireland public. By generously sharing their experiences of COVID-19, they’re providing the evidence we need for the health service to use these exciting treatments to their best effect.”

Elizabeth McLaughlin, one of the NI study participants, said: “I was so pleased to be able to participate in this trial because I know the importance of clinical research to help find which treatments work best. Given what we have experienced in the last two years, it is so important that we all play our part in finding ways to overcome this virus.”

Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young said: “The best clinical care is based on the highest quality research. This can only happen when the public and research community come together to work towards that goal. NICRN exists to enable such research to happen, and the PANORAMIC study is one of a number that have taken place during the pandemic in which Northern Ireland has played a significant role.”

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison said: “It is vital that we continue to focus on the development and evaluation of new treatments for COVID-19. I would like to thank the PANORAMIC team at NICRN for their work which will help inform how these medicines may be deployed more widely in the future.”

Participants from NI can access the study via two methods. One is self-referral on the PANORAMIC website and any NI patient signing up in this way is referred to the central NICRN hub at Dunluce Health Centre in Belfast. There are also two local NI GP-led research hubs based at Ballygomartin and Duncairn medical practices.

Claire Leathem, Research Nurse/Manager and co-lead of the NICRN Primary Care group, said: “PANORAMIC trial is the most professional and well-coordinated clinical trial we have ever worked on in General Practice and there has been an incredible ‘can-do’ attitude. We have decades of experience of conducting clinical research but this study has been one of the best and most-fulfilling for our team.”

Professor Nigel Hart, co-lead of the NICRN Primary Care group and Lead Investigator for PANORAMIC in NI, added; “While Omicron appears to be a less severe variant of COVID-19, future variants may not be so mild. That’s why the work continues. This study is helping to evaluate antiviral medications and to determine who will benefit from these in the future.”

To find out more about the PANORAMIC COVID-19 antiviral study or to register your interest in taking part visit the PANORAMIC trial website:

Further information on COVID-19 treatments including the PANORAMIC trial is available via NI Direct Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19)

Notes to editors: 

1.     The PANORAMIC study is open to individuals living anywhere in the UK who meet the following criteria:

        a. have received a positive PCR test or reported a positive lateral flow test for COVID-19;
        b. currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms beginning in the last 5 days; and
        c. are aged 50+, or 18-49 years old with an underlying medical condition that can increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19. Pre-existing conditions include; chronic lung, heart, kidney, liver or neurological conditions, diabetes, a BMI over 35, residents of care homes and those with severe learning disability. A full list of pre-existing conditions is available at the PANORAMIC trial website.

2.     For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email

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4.     The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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