Lopinavir-Ritonavir in the Treatment of COVID-19: A Dynamic Systematic Benefit-Risk Assessment

Drug Saf. 2020 Aug;43(8):809-821. doi: 10.1007/s40264-020-00966-9.


Introduction and objective: COVID-19 is an ongoing, global public health crisis for which safe and effective treatments need to be identified. The benefit-risk balance for the use of lopinavir-ritonavir in COVID-19 needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis, therefore a systematic benefit-risk assessment was designed and conducted. A key objective of this study was to provide a platform for a dynamic systematic benefit-risk evaluation; although initially this evaluation is likely to contain limited information, it is required because of the urgent unmet public need. Importantly, it allows additional data to be incorporated as they become available, and re-evaluation of the benefit-risk profile.

Methods: A systematic benefit-risk assessment was conducted using the Benefit-Risk Action Team (BRAT) framework. The exposure of interest was lopinavir-ritonavir treatment in severe COVID-19 compared to standard of care, placebo or other treatments. A literature search was conducted in PubMed and Embase to identify peer-reviewed papers reporting clinical outcomes. Two clinicians constructed a value tree and ranked key benefits and risks in order of considered clinical importance.

Results: We screened 143 papers from PubMed and 264 papers from Embase for lopinavir-ritonavir; seven papers were included in the final benefit-risk assessment. In comparison to standard of care, data for several key benefits and risks were identified for lopinavir-ritonavir. Time to clinical improvement was not significantly different for lopinavir-ritonavir in comparison to standard of care (hazard ratio 1.31, 95% confidence interval 0.95-1.80). From one study, there were fewer cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome with lopinavir-ritonavir compared with standard of care (13% vs 27%). There also appeared to be fewer serious adverse events with lopinavir-ritonavir (20%) vs standard of care (32%). Limited data were available for comparison of lopinavir-ritonavir to other treatments.

Conclusions: Based on currently available data, there was no clear benefit for the use of lopinavir-ritonavir compared to standard of care in severe COVID-19. Risk data suggested a possible decrease in serious adverse events. There was a reduction in acute respiratory distress syndrome with lopinavir-ritonavir in one study. Overall, the benefit-risk profile for lopinavir-ritonavir in severe COVID-19 cannot be considered positive until further efficacy and effectiveness data become available.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Lopinavir
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Ritonavir*


  • Lopinavir
  • Ritonavir

Supplementary concepts

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