A Manchester man has become the first UK patient to be given an experimental arthritis drug as part of a clinical trial to treat severe lung disease related to Covid-19.

Farhan Hamid, 41, has received a dose of otilimab – a potential rheumatoid arthritis treatment, as well as standard coronavirus care at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Mr Hamid, 41, from south Manchester, who is currently in an intensive care unit, was recruited to take part in the Oscar (Otilimab in Severe Covid-19 Related Disease) study earlier this month.

OSCAR (Otilimab in Severe COVID-19 Related Disease) is sponsored and funded by UK-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The study is planned to take place at hospitals across the UK, and at the MRI is led by Dr Andy Martin, an Intensive Care and Anaesthesia Consultant.

Dr Andy Martin, Intensive Care and Anaesthesia Consultant and study lead (principal investigator) of the OSCAR study

Dr Martin said: “The patients eligible to take part in this study are those experiencing very severe lung difficulties due to Covid-19 infection and are receiving oxygen or ventilator support.

“We are conducting this study to see whether otilimab – which is under investigation as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis – could also potentially ease the effect of coronavirus on the lungs, dampening the impact of the virus on the immune system.”

There are plans to recruit 800 patients globally for the study, and GSK has said it is aiming to conduct the study at five hospitals in the UK.

Those taking part will be allocated into two groups at random, with half receiving a one-hour, single infusion of otilimab, while others get a placebo intravenous therapy, in addition to standard care.

Dr Tim Felton, Honorary Consultant, Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester

Dr Tim Felton, a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester and clinical lead for all Covid-19-related studies at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), said: “The primary end point of this study is that participants are alive and free of lung failure after 28 days – so this research is potentially life-saving.

“I’d like to thank our first OSCAR participant – as well as the thousands of others who have taken part in coronavirus studies at MFT to date – as every participant who takes part in our research is contributing to the coordinated effort to enhance understanding of this global pandemic.”

The results from the study are expected in the first half of 2021.