Triple combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin in the treatment of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19: an open-label, randomised, phase 2 trial

Lancet. 2020 May 30;395(10238):1695-1704. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31042-4. Epub 2020 May 10.

Abstract

Background: Effective antiviral therapy is important for tackling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We assessed the efficacy and safety of combined interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin for treating patients with COVID-19.

Methods: This was a multicentre, prospective, open-label, randomised, phase 2 trial in adults with COVID-19 who were admitted to six hospitals in Hong Kong. Patients were randomly assigned (2:1) to a 14-day combination of lopinavir 400 mg and ritonavir 100 mg every 12 h, ribavirin 400 mg every 12 h, and three doses of 8 million international units of interferon beta-1b on alternate days (combination group) or to 14 days of lopinavir 400 mg and ritonavir 100 mg every 12 h (control group). The primary endpoint was the time to providing a nasopharyngeal swab negative for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 RT-PCR, and was done in the intention-to-treat population. The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04276688.

Findings: Between Feb 10 and March 20, 2020, 127 patients were recruited; 86 were randomly assigned to the combination group and 41 were assigned to the control group. The median number of days from symptom onset to start of study treatment was 5 days (IQR 3-7). The combination group had a significantly shorter median time from start of study treatment to negative nasopharyngeal swab (7 days [IQR 5-11]) than the control group (12 days [8-15]; hazard ratio 4·37 [95% CI 1·86-10·24], p=0·0010). Adverse events included self-limited nausea and diarrhoea with no difference between the two groups. One patient in the control group discontinued lopinavir-ritonavir because of biochemical hepatitis. No patients died during the study.

Interpretation: 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. Future clinical study of a double antiviral therapy with interferon beta-1b as a backbone is warranted.

Funding: The Shaw-Foundation, Richard and Carol Yu, May Tam Mak Mei Yin, and Sanming Project of Medicine.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Interferon beta-1b / therapeutic use*
  • Lopinavir / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use*
  • Ritonavir / therapeutic use*

Substances

  • Drug Combinations
  • lopinavir-ritonavir drug combination
  • Interferon beta-1b
  • Lopinavir
  • Ribavirin
  • Ritonavir

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 drug treatment
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04276688