New Delhi: A combination of two low-cost, widely available hepatitis C drugs may reduce the risk of death among patients hospitalised with Covid-19 in Iran, scientists have said.
The findings are based on three trials and were presented at the International Aids Society Covid-19 scientific conference this week. “One of these small trials was not randomised so the researchers… stress that the results should be seen as preliminary,” British daily The Telegraph said in a report on the presentation.
According to the scientists, 94 per cent of hospitalised Covid-19 patients who were given a combination of sofosbuvir and daclatasvir had reduced fevers and improved breathing, as opposed to 70 per cent of those who did not get this drug combination.
The death rate for the combination of drugs was 5 per cent, compared to 20 per cent for people on standard care, The Telegraph reported. Since the conference was a closed event, other details of the presentation — for example, the size of the study and the severity of Covid-19 in the participating subjects — were not immediately available.
“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 of Liverpool University, who was one of the researchers.
Several computational studies as well as laboratory experiments have earlier shown that hepatitis C drugs can interfere with the RdRp enzyme of the novel coronavirus, which helps it multiply.
The new studies reportedly showed that daclatasvir was more effective of the two as it penetrates into the lungs where Covid-19 infection is often concentrated.
Under further study
Five clinical trials to test the drug combination, both as a treatment and a preventive measure against Covid-19, have now been initiated in Iran, Brazil, Egypt and South Africa.
“It will be 10 weeks before we know properly whether it’s worked,” Hill said.
“Sofosbuvir plus daclatasvir already has a well-established safety profile in the treatment of hepatitis C. Worldwide millions of people have been cured using this treatment,” Thiago Souza, one of the researchers from Brazil, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
According to a report by The Financial Times, however, a separate study that included scientists from the US pharma giant Gilead, showed that sofosbuvir, alongside other antivirals, had no effect on the new coronavirus at standard doses.
Gilead is the manufacturer of remdesivir, another antiviral drug that is currently authorised for emergency use on Covid-19 patients in the US and India.