New COVID-19 antiviral study opens in Northern Ireland

Date published: 16 January 2023

Participants are being sought in Northern Ireland to take part in the latest phase of a UK wide study to investigate antiviral treatments for COVID-19.

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The PANORAMIC study, run by the University of Oxford, alongside the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (NICRN) has been running across the UK since December 2021 aiming to find out if new antiviral medicines help to keep people with COVID-19 from needing to be admitted to hospital and help people to get better sooner.

The study is open to adults over the age of 50 or those aged 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition that can increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19, who have received a positive COVID-19 test result, and who are experiencing symptoms that started in the previous five days.

Previously the first stage of the PANORAMIC study recruited over 25,000 participants across the UK with over 1000 participants from Northern Ireland.

This made the study the fastest recruiting clinical trial ever in the UK and a novel initiative that has paved the path for how research can be conducted in primary care. The data from the trial is important to help understand how to make best use of antiviral medicines for the treatment of COVID-19.

In this latest phase of the study an additional antiviral, Paxlovid, is now being investigated. Recruitment to the Paxlovid arm initially began in England and now has sites open across the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride said: “While vaccination remains our main defence against COVID-19, we must continually look at any treatments that could help people recover more quickly, reduce the numbers needing hospital care and reduce the pressure on our health services.

“It therefore remains important to learn more about who could benefit from antivirals through studies such as this, which could not only help reduce recovery time and hospitalisation for individuals, but also help reduce pressures on our hospitals and we need your help to provide those answers.”

The antiviral Paxlovid is a medicine which is swallowed as a capsule for treating people with COVID-19 infections to help reduce the risk of hospitalisations and death. Paxlovid is currently one of the treatment options for those at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 being delivered by Health and Social Care, Outpatient COVID-19 Treatment services (OCTs). In total, over 6,000 patients at highest risk from the effects of Covid-19 have received ground-breaking treatments in Northern Ireland’s OCTs in the last 12 months. Paxlovid has now been included in the PANORAMIC study to investigate the antiviral in a wider group of people.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison said: “Antivirals are an important addition to our response to COVID-19 and it is vital that we continue to focus on the development and evaluation of new treatments for COVID-19.”

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.”

Any members of the public registering from Northern Ireland will be guided through the study and monitored by the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network.

Professor Nigel Hart, co-lead of the primary care group of the NICRN and Lead Investigator for PANORAMIC in Northern Ireland said: “We couldn’t do this work without the incredible support of the public, we are indebted to them.”

Further information for the public is available on NI Direct- Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage. For more information on study eligibility and to sign up to the trial, visit:

Notes to editors: 

  1. Further information for the public is available on NI Direct- Treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage
  2. For more information on eligibility and to sign up to the trial, visit:  
  3. The national study is open to people who meet all the following criteria: 
  • are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms beginning in the last 5 days
  • have had a positive PCR or Lateral Flow test for COVID-19
  • are aged 50 or over, or aged 18 or over with a LISTED pre-existing condition.
  1. Half of the participants will receive antivirals and half will not as happens in most trials related to new treatments. This is so the study team can see any difference in the health of those who received the antiviral treatment compared to those who did not.
  2. All participants take part from their own homes, without needing to visit a clinic or hospital. The oral treatment will be delivered directly to their home by the trial team. All participants will still be able to access any health care that they would normally expect to receive.
  3. Press release ‘Almost 6000 Covid patients receive ground-breaking treatments in last 12 months’ published: 21 December 2022. Available at Department of Health website
  4. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email: Dr Dan Butler is available for interview.
  5. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt
  6. 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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