Help find treatments for COVID-19


It is now clear that COVID-19 has a greater effect in older people, and those with underlying health conditions, but there are no treatments specifically available for use outside hospital settings that work against COVID-19. Right now a UK-wide clinical trial called PRINCIPLE is looking for possible treatments.

PRINCIPLE is a self-enrolment research study to find treatments for COVID-19 for people in the community who are at higher risk of complications and it is being run across the UK.

The Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (NICRN), which is leading the study here, is appealing for people over the age of 65, or over 50 with a pre-existing condition, and with typical COVID-19 symptoms, to take part in the study.

The study is looking at patients who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because of age, or pre-existing health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes or a weakened immune system. The trial will assess whether treatment prescribed in the first 14 days of COVID-19 illness can speed up recovery and prevent the need for hospital admission. The treatments include a steroid inhaler or antibiotics.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of HSC R&D Division Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “HSC R&D Division continues to ensure that Northern Ireland is well placed to participate in COVID-19 research. Praise must be given to the entire research infrastructure in Northern Ireland for how it has responded to the COVID-19 crisis. The PRINCIPLE trial is another example of how research can play its part in the fight against COVID-19 and I would encourage anyone who is eligible to participate to consider doing so.”

As a community-based primary care COVID-19 trial, no face-to-face visits are required of those taking part – just telephone or internet access – and participant packs will be couriered to patients’ homes.

By taking part in this study, you will be contributing towards the understanding of how we can treat COVID-19 and how the symptoms progress. 

Professor Nigel Hart, Co-Lead for the Primary Care group of the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network said: “Whilst a lot of attention has shifted towards the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, we still need to have treatments for those who contract the virus in order to prevent them needing to be admitted to hospital.

“We know that older age is a risk factor for having a poorer outcome with COVID-19. We would appeal to those eligible to get in touch with the PRINCIPLE Study Coordinating Centre to register their interest.”

Those who meet the criteria can self-enrol in the study, even if your GP practice is not directly recruiting – visit the PRINCIPLE website for more information. You can also telephone the study team on 0800 138 0880.


Further information

The study is for people with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms. People who feel they are already well on the way to recovery should not take part. 

To take part you need to be:

Aged over 65, or aged 50 to 64 with at least one of the following conditions:

  • weakened immune system due to a serious illness or medication (e.g. chemotherapy)​,
  • heart disease or high blood pressure​,
  • asthma or lung disease​,
  • known diabetes,
  • liver disease,
  • stroke or neurological problem​.
  • a BMI of 35 or above.


Experiencing the following symptoms of COVID-19 for fewer than 15 days:

  • A continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)​,
  • high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to take your temperature)​,
  • a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell


Have had a positive test result for COVID-19 within the past 14 days and are unwell