amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Update on HIV Drugs and COVID-19

Published Friday, March 20, 2020  

HIV drugs reported to have no effect against advanced COVID-19

CORONA virusNovel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Early expectations that antiretroviral drugs might prove effective against COVID-19 were dimmed with the results of a trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, March 18. Researchers in China tested the effect of a lopinavir/ritonavir combination in about half of 199 COVID-19 patients with advanced disease. The drugs did not affect how long it took for patients to experience clinical improvement, nor did they have any effect on the rate of death.

The researchers who conducted the study suggest that further testing may be warranted in patients with less advanced disease. For now, though, these data indicate that the lopinavir/ritonavir combination is not useful for treating advanced COVID disease. 

Furthermore, at present there is no scientific evidence that people taking any form of antiretroviral therapy—whether for HIV treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)—are protected against COVID-19 or will experience any lessening of symptoms if they get it.

As researchers around the world race to find effective treatments for COVID-19, a range of drug candidates are under investigation. In a bid to speed the discovery of a treatment that could be deployed quickly, many of these are drugs that have already been approved for other uses.

As the situation evolves and new knowledge comes to light, amfAR will continue to provide updates.