Oral disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and immunosuppressants with antiviral potential, including SARS-CoV-2 infection: a review

Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2020 Sep 3;12:1759720X20947296. doi: 10.1177/1759720X20947296. eCollection 2020.


There have been several episodes of viral infection evolving into epidemics in recent decades, and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the latest example. Its high infectivity and moderate mortality have resulted in an urgent need to find an effective treatment modality. Although the category of immunosuppressive drugs usually poses a risk of infection due to interference of the immune system, some of them have been found to exert antiviral properties and are already used in daily practice. Recently, hydroxychloroquine and baricitinib have been proposed as potential drugs for SARS-CoV-2. In fact, there are other immunosuppressants known with antiviral activities, including cyclosporine A, hydroxyurea, minocycline, mycophenolic acid, mycophenolate mofetil, leflunomide, tofacitinib, and thalidomide. The inherent antiviral activity could be a treatment choice for patients with coexisting rheumatological disorders and infections. Clinical evidence, their possible mode of actions and spectrum of antiviral activities are included in this review article.

Lay summary: Immunosuppressants often raise the concern of infection risks, especially for patients with underlying immune disorders. However, some disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) with inherent antiviral activity would be a reasonable choice in the situation of concomitant viral infections and flare up of autoimmune diseases. This review covers DMARDs of treatment potential for SARS-CoV-2 in part I, and antiviral mechanisms plus trial evidence for viruses other than SARS-CoV-2 in part II.

Keywords: COVID-19; baricitinib; hydroxychloroquine; immunosuppressant; thalidomide; virus.