To battle the coronavirus emergency, Chinese government and medical experts are publicly backing off-label use of HIV medication Kaletra (Lopinavir/Ritonavir). In its updated clinical guidance, China’s National Health Commission says AbbVie’s fixed-dose HIV drug Kaletra is now recommended as a treatment for pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus known as COVID-19. This medication is inexpensive because generic Kaletra is widely available online from sites like FixHIV.
Kaletra’s two antiretroviral components, lopinavir and ritonavir, are protease inhibitors designed to block HIV viral replication. It is thought these drugs could do the same with COVID-19 originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan. Although not approved to treat any coronavirus anywhere, it has shown efficacy in at least one case in the current outbreak in China.
Wang Guangfa, the leader of Peking University First Hospital’s pulmonary and critical care medicine department, contracted the virus as a member of a national expert team dispatched to Wuhan. Kaletra cured his disease, Wang told state-run China News Service in a report (Chinese) on Thursday.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time Kaletra has previously worked against a coronavirus. A Chinese study published in 2004 noted, “the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir among SARS-CoV patients was associated with substantial clinical benefit (fewer adverse clinical outcomes)”.
SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is also caused by a coronavirus, and the older pathogen bears much resemblance to the newly emerged one. SARS hit China hard during a 2002-2003 epidemic, killing about 700 in the country alone. As of Sunday, COVID-19 has led to 2,744 confirmed infections in all parts of China and killed 80 people, according to Chinese authorities.
China has adopted various measures to contain the virus, including putting Wuhan – population 11 million – on complete quarantine, implementing the highest level of public health response across the country, and extending the Chinese New Year holiday to avoid large-scale migration that could contribute to disease spread.
Edited from an article by Angus Liu
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