Recently, the phase II of a randomized, multicenter, open-label clinical trial for the testing of three drugs for COVID-19 has reported that the combination can successfully help in the coronavirus treatment in cases of people with mild to moderate symptoms.
The combination included lopinavir-ritonavir, interferon beta-1b, ribavirin, all three of which were used along with the current standard treatment for managing the coronavirus infection.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers examined one hundred and twenty-seven people from Hong Kong in China, all of whom had tested positive for COVID-19 from the beginning of February to the end of March.
All of the participants had started seeing symptoms of the coronavirus infection five days prior to the diagnosis and the start of the coronavirus treatment with the three drugs combination.
Out of the one hundred and twenty-seven participants, forty-one received only the standard care for the infection and eighty-six were treated using the standard method in combination with interferon beta-1b, ribavirin, and lopinavir-ritonavir.
More specifically, the group taking the three drugs took “lopinavir 400 [milligrams (mg)] and ritonavir 100 mg every 12 [hours], ribavirin 400 mg every 12 [hours], and three doses of 8 million international units of interferon beta-1b on alternate days.”
Participants in both of the groups received the treatment for fourteen days. After the time period, the researchers noted that the three drugs combination was more effective in managing the symptoms of COVID-19 in comparison with the standard treatment.
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The group which took the three-drug combo was seen to recover much quicker and get discharged earlier in comparison with the control group. In addition, the period of viral shedding, in which the virus can be diagnosed in the body or transferred to another person, was also noted to be reduced.
The nasopharyngeal swabs from the participants in the control group showed that the virus was cleared in fourteen days. On the other hand, swabs from the group using the three drugs showed the virus cleared in seven days.
No adverse effects were noted in one group specifically. Participants from both groups experienced diarrhea and nausea, both of which resolved without any additional medical treatment. These findings, which appear in the journal The Lancet, can be significant for coronavirus treatment progress.
The leading investigator of the study, Prof. Kwok-Yung Yuen from the University of Hong Kong, commented on the findings, saying:
“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 healthcare workers by reducing the duration and quantity of viral shedding”
Though these results add to the ongoing research for coronavirus treatment around the world, Prof. Yuen and colleagues emphasize the importance of waiting for findings of the III phase of the clinical trial.
Phase III of the trial will focus on the drug combination in patients with a more severe form of COVID-19. It is not clear whether the results will be the same in those with later stages of the disease.
The team is relying on the effectiveness of interferon beta-1b in strengthening the immunity against COVID-19 but until it is tested on participants with severe coronavirus infection, the usefulness of the drug-combo cannot be estimated.
However, since the majority of the clinical trials testing a number of drugs for the treatment of coronavirus infection have not reported any benefits, these findings are one step ahead in coronavirus treatment progress.