The potential of drug repositioning as a short-term strategy for the control and treatment of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2): a systematic review

Arch Virol. 2020 Aug;165(8):1729-1737. doi: 10.1007/s00705-020-04693-5. Epub 2020 Jun 8.


The novel human coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, has quickly become a threat to the public health and economy worldwide. Despite the severity of some cases, there are no current pathogen-specific antivirals available to treat the disease. Therefore, many studies have focused on the evaluation of the anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity of clinically available drugs. Here, we conducted a systematic review to describe the drug repositioning strategy against SARS-CoV-2 and to discuss the clinical impact of this approach in the current pandemic context. The systematic review was performed on March 23, 2020, using PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, Cochrane Library, and Biblioteca Virtual de Saúde (BVS). The data were summarized in tables and critically analyzed. After the database search, 12 relevant studies were identified as eligible for the review. Among the drugs reported in these studies, 57 showed some evidence of antiviral activity. Antivirals, especially antiretrovirals, are the main class of therapeutic agents evaluated against COVID-19. Moreover, studies have reported the anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity of antitumor (16%; 9/57), antimalarial (7%, 4/57), and antibacterial (5%; 3/57) agents. Additionally, seven pharmacological agents (chloroquine, tetrandrine, umifenovir (arbidol), carrimycin, damageprevir, lopinavir/ritonavir) are in phase IV of clinical trials. Due to the evidence of the anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity of various clinically available agents, drug repositioning stands out as a promising strategy for a short-term response in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Betacoronavirus / drug effects*
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Drug Repositioning*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Antimalarials
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antiviral Agents