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GPs in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough played a key role in finding ways to treat people with COVID-19 and other conditions over last year, data from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) show. Research staff at GP practices across the East of England ran 38 studies from 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021, resulting in the enrolment of 22,812 volunteers taking part in clinical trials.

GP teams are instrumental in delivering research into many conditions every year, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease, but last year saw their focus widen to helping find treatments for COVID-19. This led to a ground-breaking discovery that a commonly-used, inexpensive asthma drug may shorten the recovery time for people over the age of 50 with early COVID-19 symptoms.

Results from the PRINCIPLE (Platform Randomised trial of Investigations against COVID-19 In older People), funded by the NIHR, showed that people aged 50 or over with early or mild COVID-19 symptoms who inhaled budesonide twice a day, for two weeks, had a shortened recovery time by an average of three days.

Recruitment for PRINCIPLE is still ongoing and participants can join from anywhere in the UK, either online, over the phone or via a healthcare professional, and without needing face-to-face visits with the trial team in Oxford. It is currently the only COVID-19 trial being managed by GP practices and surgeries across the country.

Dr Anthony Gunstone of the Staploe Medical Centre in Soham, said: “The PRINCIPLE study is vital because it gives GPs in the community the opportunity to help investigate existing medicines that may help prevent serious illness and patients from becoming hospitalised.”

To find out more about the study and the criteria for participation, visit the PRINCIPLE trial website. More information about taking part in research and other opportunities to take part in COVID-19 research can be found at

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