A combination of three antiviral drugs plus an immune system boosting drug seemed to help patients recover more quickly from coronavirus infections, doctors in Hong Kong reported Friday.
They said the approach needs more testing but it could offer another treatment possibility for Covid-19 patients. Currently the only authorized treatment is the experimental drug remdesivir, which also shortens the duration of illness but which is in limited supply.
Kwok-Yung Yuen at Hong Kong University and colleagues tested the HIV drug combination of ritonavir and lopanivir along with the general antiviral drug ribavirin and a multiple sclerosis drug called beta interferon.
The patients all had mild to moderate symptoms. Some doctors think treating patients earlier in the course of the infection might be better.
Yuen’s team gave some patients only the HIV drugs, often sold under the brand name Kaletra. Others were randomly assigned to receive the ritonavir/lopanivir combination plus the antiviral drug ribavirin and beta interferon.
The patients who got the cocktail tested negative for coronavirus after seven days on average. Those who just got the HIV drugs were positive on average for 12 days, the team reported in the Lancet medical journal.
The patients given the cocktail also felt better quicker.
“Early triple antiviral therapy was safe and superior to lopinavir–ritonavir alone in alleviating symptoms and shortening the duration of viral shedding and hospital stay in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19,” the researchers wrote.