Antiretroviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV appear to be effective in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus, Chinese scientists say.
A joint study by the Institute of Materia Medica and ShanghaiTech University found that a group of 12 anti-retroviral drugs may be effective in the treatment of the Wuhan coronavirus.
They are: indinavir, saquinavir, lopinavir, ritonavir, remdesivir, atazanavir, darunavir, tipranavir, fosamprenavir, abacavir, elvitegravir and raltegravir.
Infected doctor says it worked for him
In an interview last Thursday, a Beijing-based respiratory expert who was infected with the virus while treating patients on the front line said the anti-retroviral regimen he was advised to take proved to be effective.
Dr. Wang Guangfa, a senior doctor in respiratory diseases and critical care, said the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir was “very effective” for him.
Whether the combination will be similarly effective for other patients will require further investigation by researchers.
National Health Commission confirms rumors
Rumors in Beijing over the past week that hospitals were using anti-HIV drugs in the treatment of the Wuhan virus were confirmed by the National Health Commission (NHC).
While there has not been any clinically proven drug for the Wuhan coronavirus as yet, the commission said it was recommending that patients take two lopinavir and ritonavir tablets twice a day and a dose of alpha-interpheron through nebulization twice a day.
The commission added that there were sufficient stocks of the two drugs in the capital and that three Beijing hospitals on the frontline in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus were testing the treatments in accordance with NHC guidelines.
Indian generics to the rescue?
Lopinavir and ritonavir are available as a combination in a single pill under the brand names Kaletra and Aluvia by American biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc.
The NHC’s announcement sent Aluvia in short supply in most parts of China, prompting patients to tap groupbuying agents in search of Indian generics that cost a fraction of the patented pill.
In the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a group of 41 SARS patients in Hong Kong were put on a three week clinical trial of lopinavir/ritonavir and ribavarin, showing promising results.
Only one patient died in that trial, translating to a fatality rate of 2.4%, much lower than that for SARS patients receiving other treatments.
A new clinical trial is now under way using the two drugs to treat cases of the Wuhan virus, according to medical journal Lancet.
Beijing’s clinical study is also ongoing at the following hospitals: Beijing Ditan Hospital, Beijing You’an Hospital and the People’s Liberation Army 302 Hospital.