COVID-19 diagnoses are growing at a rapid rate, to the point where data is changing daily. As of today, there are 4.23 million diagnosed cases worldwide, with 1.39 million in the United States alone. As each day passes, researchers fervently search for more information on the virus, as well as potential cures. Now, according to a recently published study in The Lancet, a triple antiviral therapy may be an effective and well-tolerated treatment for patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.
Researchers from Hong Kong followed 120 patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 infections. To start, the patients were split into two groups.
The first group was only treated with lopinavir-ritonavir, an anti-retroviral medication commonly used to treat HIV.
The second group was treated with a triple combination of lopinavir-ritonavir, interferon beta 1b, and ribavirin. Interferon beta 1b is an immunosuppressant designed to treat flare-ups associated with multiple sclerosis. Ribavirin, on the other hand, is an antiviral drug that treats respiratory infections. When used in conjunction with other medications, ribavirin can also treat hepatitis C.
Next, doctors sourced samples from patients’ noses, saliva, throats, and stool. These samples were tested to determine level of viral infection.
Results for COVID-19
Researchers determined that patients treated with the triple combination recovered faster than those in the first group. In fact, patients in Group 2 recovered an average of 5 days earlier. Additionally, patients treated with the triple combination therapy experienced quicker symptom reduction and shorter hospitalizations.
Further, there were few adverse reactions to the medications. Some patients experienced gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or nausea. However, these were reportedly mild. Additionally, no patients died. Researchers are hopeful, as some of these medications are often not well-tolerated on their own.
However, there are a few things to note about this study. First, one of the reasons why it might have been so effective was early treatment (within one week of symptom onset). This allows doctors to treat the underlying condition before complications arise. Next, the sample size was relatively small. As a result, additional studies are needed to see if results can be replicated.
Then, the study only followed patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. Thus, it is unclear if the triple combination treatment would work for patients with severe COVID-19. Finally, all participants knew whether they were getting the single drug vs. the triple combination. So patients in the latter group may have had more hope for success. Additional research should be double-blind and use placebos.
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