HIV drugs might not be the cure for coronavirus, according to a new clinical trial
Antiretrovirals used to treat HIV “showed no benefit” when given to people severely ill will COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Hopes that HIV drugs could be used to treat those who have acquired the coronavirus were dampened by the results of a clinic trial in Wuhan, China (where the virus originated).
Doctors gave 99 out of 199 patients suffering from COVID-19 lopinavir–ritonavir, the antiretroviral which is commonly used to suppress HIV.
At the end of the 14-day trial, there was no significant difference in mortality rates or the viral loads of patients between those who were given the drugs and those who only received standard care.
In their conclusions, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors wrote that “no benefit was observed with lopinavir–ritonavir treatment beyond standard care”.
They noted that further trials are necessary “to confirm or exclude the possibility of a treatment benefit”.
Analyst suggests HIV drugs might work to cure coronavirus if given sooner.
One change the study did find was that using the HIV drugs shortened the time it took to see clinical improvements, from 16 days to 15 days.
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However, doctors noted those who saw improvements after receiving the drugs did so within 12 days of COVID-19 symptoms appearing.
Umer Raffat, a pharmaceutical analyst at Evercore ISI, said this finding suggests that the drugs might possibly work if given as soon as patients started showing symptoms.
He told FiercePharma that the 12-day period between patients displaying symptoms and taking the retrovirals was “very long”, nothing that similar drugs to treat flu must be taken within two days of symptoms.
Because so little is know about coronavirus and COVID-19, Raffat said the study should have focused on “identifying the time point up until which an antiviral may work”.
Pharma giant says no evidence of antiretrovirals treating COVID-19.
On March 16, pharma giant Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying it had found no evidence of HIV antiretrovirals working against COVID-19.
The company said it is currently screwing its antiviral compounds, including darunavir, for its potential efficacy.
“Johnson & Johnson has no evidence that darunavir has any effect against SARS-CoV-2 [the coronavirus],” the statement read.