ByAnne Gulland, GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY CORRESPONDENT
Two cheap and widely available hepatitis C drugs have cut death rates among patients hospitalised with coronavirus, the results of three small studies have shown.
The drugs - sofosbuvir and daclatasvir - were given to three groups of patients hospitalised with the virus in Iran. After 14 days of treatment 94 per cent of patients taking the drug combination were showing signs of recovery versus 70 per cent receiving standard care.
The death rate for the combination of drugs was five per cent, compared to 20 per cent for people on standard care.
“We saw significantly faster rates of clinical recovery and hospital discharge for people taking the drug combination and we also saw faster rates of survival,” said Dr Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University and one of the researchers.
The treatment works by binding to one of proteins of the virus, interfering with its ability to replicate. Laboratory studies showed that daclatasvir was the most effective of the two as it penetrates into the lungs where Covid-19 infection is often concentrated.
One of these small trials was not randomised so the researchers, who presented their results at the International Aids Society Covid-19 scientific conference this week, stress that the results should be seen as preliminary.
“It’s early data so we do not want to get carried away,” Dr Hill added.
Five randomised control trials to test the combination as both a treatment and a prophylactic have now been set up in Iran, Brazil, Egypt and South Africa and researchers hope to recruit 2,000 patients and health workers.
They hope to see data by October and if the combination proves successful it could be approved for worldwide use.
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