HIV drug ineffective at treating Covid-19, major study suggests

An antiviral drug used to treat HIV and touted as a potential Covid-19 treatment has proven ineffective against the coronavirus
Thomas Hornall (PA)

AN ANTIVIRAL drug used to treat HIV and earmarked as a potential Covid-19 treatment is ineffective at treating the disease, a major study has indicated.

Lopinavir-ritonavir showed “no beneficial effect” in hospitalised patients not on ventilators, according to the University of Oxford's Recovery trial – the world's largest randomised clinical trial (RCT) of potential Covid-19 treatments.

Many countries which currently recommend the drug should revise their guidelines in the wake of the results, experts said, as they pulled the medication from the trial.

Some 1,596 patients were randomised to receive the drug and were compared with 3,376 patients randomised to receive standard hospital care, researchers said.

Of these patients, some 4 per cent required invasive mechanical ventilation when they entered the trial, 70 per cent required oxygen alone, and 26 per cent did not require any respiratory intervention.

The results showed “no significant difference in the primary endpoint of 28-day mortality” (22.1 per cent lopinavir-ritonavir v 21.3 per cent usual care), the Recovery trial said.

The trial researchers added: “The results were consistent in different subgroups of patients. There was also no evidence of beneficial effects on the risk of progression to mechanical ventilation or length of hospital stay.

“These data convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit of lopinavir-ritonavir in the hospitalised Covid-19 patients we studied.”

More than 11,800 patients from 176 NHS hospitals have been randomised to receive different potential treatments for the Recovery trial.

So far, the results have also shown another medication, hydroxychloroquine, to be ineffective. US President Donald Trump has previously said he had been taking the anti-malarial drug to prevent coronavirus.

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