In this study, efficacy and safety of interferon (IFN) β-1b in the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 were evaluated. Among an open-label, randomized clinical trial, adult patients (≥18 years old) with severe COVID-19 were randomly assigned (1:1) to the IFN group or the control group. Patients in the IFN group received IFN β-1b (250 mcg subcutaneously every other day for two consecutive weeks) along with the national protocol medications while in the control group, patients received only the national protocol medications (lopinavir/ritonavir or atazanavir/ritonavir plus hydroxychloroquine for 7-10 days). The primary outcome of the study was time to clinical improvement. Secondary outcomes were in-hospital complications and 28-daymortality. Between April 20 and May 20, 2020, 80 patients were enrolled and finally 33 patients in each group completed the study. Time to clinical improvment in the IFN group was significantly shorter than the control group ([9(6-10) vs. 11(9-15) days respectively, p = 0.002, HR = 2.30; 95% CI: 1.33-3.39]). At day 14, the percentage of discharged patients was 78.79% and 54.55% in the IFN and control groups respectively (OR = 3.09; 95% CI: 1.05-9.11, p = 0.03). ICU admission rate in the control group was significantly higher than the IFN group (66.66% vs. 42.42%, p = 0.04). The duration of hospitalization and ICU stay were not significantly different between the groups All-cause 28-day mortality was 6.06% and 18.18% in the IFN and control groups respectively (p = 0.12). IFN β-1b was effective in shortening the time to clinical improvement without serious adverse events in patients with severe COVID-19. Furthermore, admission in ICU and need for invasive mechanical ventilation decreased following administration of IFN β-1b. Although 28-day mortality was lower in the IFN group, further randomized clinical trials with large sample size are needed for exact estimation of survival benefit of IFN β-1b.
Keywords: COVID19; Interferon β; Iran; SARS-COV-2.
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