Sharing evidence to help tackle COVID-19

Research led by the University of Huddersfield has responded to the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 by publishing a significant number of articles in a range of prestigious journals on various aspects to dealing with the pandemic, including the safe use of medications.

Dr Syed Shahzad Hasan, senior research fellow in the Department of Pharmacy in collaboration with colleagues from both the University and around the world have, since March, published over 50 articles on COVID-19.

They include evidence-based reviews, practical guides, critical commentaries on published studies, systematic reviews, meta-analysis, and original studies. The majority of their articles have featured in Q1 and Q2 journals – those that are ranked in the top half of the scientific publications.

“Our research team was among the first to synthesise the evidence on the use of proton pump inhibitors, (published in Journal of Internal Medicine) and statins (published in American Journal of Cardiology) in COVID-19 patients,” says Dr Hasan. “These were the first to report on the safety and effectiveness of these medications in COVID-19 and were widely covered by the leading medical news outlets such as Reuters Health, Medscape as well as being included in the British Medical Journal’s list of Best Practice in COVID-19.”

“The idea was to generate evidence and share with a range of front-line healthcare professionals like clinicians who needed help with the evidence-based information to deal with the medical emergency. We provided them with up-to-date evidence-based information on a regular basis by publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals. We are very pleased that these publications were already read by thousands and we had received a significant number of inquiries and comments from all over the world”, adds Dr Hasan.

Early call on steroid use on COVID patients

A study published in April found that using steroids with severely ill COVID-19 patients could have saved lives early in the pandemic. Dr Hasan, alongside the University’s Dr Hamid Merchant, assessed the results of using corticosteroids such as dexamethasone on hospitalised COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) who were on respiratory support. Their research was published in the Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine.

“We concluded that the benefits of continuing corticosteroid treatment outweigh the associated risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”. This research work was also cited in the BMJ’s Best Practice on COVID-19 to substantiate their recommendation.

“In this era of information technology and ever-growing social media, the speed at which the information was travelling was no less than the pandemic itself. It can be very dangerous when incorrect information can spread at this speed. An urgent response was needed to tackle the health misinformation, misinterpretation or oversimplification of research that was happening at a breakneck speed during the pandemic,” says Dr Merchant.

“We are pleased that we were able to respond and contribute to the evidence-based practice during unprecedented times amid the COVID-19 pandemic – the largest healthcare emergency the modern world has ever seen.”

Spreading the message on a range of drugs aroud coronavirus

Other significant contributions include the development of evidence-based practical guides on the use of antidiabetic drugs in hospitalised COVID-19 patients, the use of cardiovascular drugs in COVID-19 patients, management of co-medications in COVID-19 patients with atrial fibrillation, and the use of anticoagulants in COVID-19 patients.

“We published many letters to the editors to add new knowledge, to counter poor quality evidence or responded to non-evidence-based information, to warn the patients and healthcare professionals about potential safety issues with the treatment options,” Dr Hasan adds.

“We have highlighted the risk of pulmonary toxicity with amiodarone use (published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology). This approach was helpful to highlight safety perspectives that were originally neglected in the publication and encouraged scientific scrutiny and debate.

“Our COVID-19 work has featured on Euro News, Reuters, PJ News, IGTV series on COVID-19 (in partnership with Getz Pharma, Pakistan), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), and various international conferences, such as Malaysia, Switzerland, India, and Pakistan.”

Dr Syed Shahzad Hasan is leading a COVID-19 Research and Evidence Synthesis Group with Chia Siang Kow (International Medical University, Malaysia), and Dr. Hamid Merchant (University of Huddersfield, UK) in collaboration with various academics and practitioners across the world:

Dr. Toby Capstick (Leeds Teaching NHS Hospital, UK), Dr. Syed Tabish Razi Zaidi (University of Leeds, UK), Ms. Wendy Sunter (CHFT NHS Hospitals, UK), Dr. Muhammad Abdul Hadi (University of Birmingham, UK), Ms. Kaeshaelya Thiruchelvam (University of Newcastle, Australia), Dr Faizan Mazhar (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy), Ms. Amie Bain (University of Huddersfield, UK), and Dr. Mamoon Aldeyab (University of Huddersfield, UK), Dr Raees Ahmed (Consultant Pulmonologist, USA).

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