HIV and flu drugs prove futile in fight against coronavirus
In a small randomized controlled study, researchers in China found that the anti-HIV drug Kaletra and the influenza drug Arbidol had no effect in patients with mild to moderately severe COVID-19 infections.
The trial, published by the journal Med by Cell Press, included 86 patients: 34 received Kaletra (lopinavir / ritonavir), 35 received Arbidol (umifenovir) and 17 patients received only supportive care and oxygen if necessary.
The researchers found no significant difference how long patients have had the disease or the severity of their symptoms depending on the medication they took; in fact, several participants who took Kaletra had worse gastrointestinal side effects than the control group.
The news follows another study on Kaletra, an anti-HIV drug produced by AbbVie, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March who also found the drug ineffective.
Despite these studies, black markets for drugs have emerged around the world, including in Russia.
Although small, the study deals a blow to two of the best potential treatments for coronaviruses; according to the FDA, no drugs have been approved to treat COVID-19.
Kaletra, an HIV drug produced by AbbVie, was first recommended by the Chinese government for the treatment of coronaviruses in January. The drug prevents the HIV virus from replicating, and officials hoped it could do the same for the coronavirus. Kaletra is still under investigation in at least 10 active clinical trials around the world, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.
Arbidol, a medicine made in Russia, works against influenza by preventing the virus from fusion with cells inside the body. Although it has shown some efficacy against influenza and other illnesses, including Zika virus, the FDA has not approved its use in the United States
Despite the hype around various potential treatments for coronaviruses, no drug has yet been able to fight the virus. A new preprint study (unpaired by peers) published today showed that hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug touted by President Trump, also has no benefit for coronavirus patients and may in fact make some of them worse.