HONG KONG :
A TWO-WEEK course of antiviral therapy that combines the power of three drugs has shown promise in treating hospitalised patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 in a carefully undertaken phase 2 clinical trial. The results of the trial, published in the journal The Lancet, involved 127 adults from six public hospitals in Hong Kong. The drug combination tested in the trial included -- interferon beta-1b which was developed to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), lopinavir-ritonavir which is normally used to treat HIV and ribavirin, an oral hepatitis C virus drug.
The findings of the phase 2 trial provided evidence that early treatment with triple antiviral therapy alongside standard care is safe and shortens duration of viral shedding (when the virus is detectable and potentially transmissible) compared to lopinavir-ritonavir alone -- average 7 days vs 12 days -- in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. People in the triple combination group spent 5.5 days less in hospital on average compared to those in the control group who received the lopinavir-ritonavir treatment alone. “Our trial demonstrates that early treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 with a triple combination of antiviral drugs may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body, relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk to health-care workers by reducing the duration and quantity of viral shedding,” said Professor Kwok-Yung Yuen from the University of Hong Kong who led the research.
“Furthermore, the treatment combination appeared safe and well tolerated by patients,” Yuen said. Previous research found that a combination of oral lopinavir-ritonavir and ribavirin significantly reduced respiratory failure and death in patients hospitalised with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) during the 2003 outbreak. Interferon beta-1b has been shown to reduce viral load and improve lung problems in animal studies of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infection.