Anti-viral HIV drug found to have no benefit for hospitalised Covid-19 patients in UK trial

A medical worker tests swabs for the novel coronavirus in Britain. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - A combination of antiviral drugs used to treat HIV had no beneficial effect in patients hospitalised with Covid-19 in a large-scale randomised trial, British scientists said on Monday (June 29).

Scientists running the Recovery trial at the University of Oxford said that the results "convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit of lopinavir-ritonavir in the hospitalised Covid-19 patients we studied."

The scientists found no difference in mortality, length of hospital stay or the risk of being put on a ventilator, when they compared 1,596 patients given lopinavir-ritonavir with 3,376 patients in a control group.

AbbVie Inc's Kaletra is a combination of the drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, used together to fight HIV. The company had increased its supplies while it was determining whether it can be used to treat Covid-19.

"These preliminary results show that for patients hospitalised with Covid-19 and not on a ventilator, lopinavir-ritonavir is not an effective treatment," Peter Horby, chief investigator for the trial, said.

The scientists were unable to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the drug combination in patients on ventilators because of the difficulty of administering it.

Lopinavir-ritonavir is also being studied in a trial by the World Health Organisation.

The Oxford-based Recovery trial has been examining the effectiveness of six possible Covid-19 treatments, enrolling 11,800 patients in all.

The arm of the trial studying dexamethasone, a steroid, found it reduced the death rate of patients that required oxygen. Another arm found the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, touted by US President Donald Trump, had no benefit.

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