Researchers in Hong Kong claimed that COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms recovered more quickly when treated with a combination of three antiviral drugs if treated soon after symptoms appear in a paper published by British medical journal The Lancet, May 8, 2020.
However, according to Chang Shan-Chwen ( 張上淳), coordinator of the expert advisory group of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), the group had considered the treatment method in the initial stages of the outbreak, but rejected it due to the large number of side effects.
Dr Chang made the comments in response to an inquiry at a regularly scheduled press conference today, May 10, according to reports including Radio Taiwan International.
University of Hong Kong professor of microbiology Yuen Kwok-yung (袁國勇), who led the team promoting the use of the antiviral cocktail said:
“Our trial demonstrates that early treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 with a triple combination of antiviral drugs may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient’s body,” according to a press release republished by Agence France-Presse and regurgitated by Taipei Times.
The Hong Kong study claims that 86 people treated with a combination of drugs; one previously used to treat multiple sclerosis, another to treat HIV/AIDS, and one aimed at Hepatitis C, were cleared of the virus on average within 7 days, while a group of 41 patients treated only with the anti-HIV drug Lopinavir/Ritonavir took 12 days.
At the press conference today, Dr Chang admitted that all three drugs had been considered at the initial stage of the outbreak. “Interferon used to be a very common treatment for hepatitis C, but it has a lot of side effects,” so it was not included in Taiwan’s Interim Guidelines for the Clinical Management of SARS-CoV-2 Infection, Chang said.
As for the Anti HIV/AIDS drug, there were not “too many” side effects, so it was included in the first version of the clinical guidelines. However, the treatment was found to be ineffective, and has been since removed.
As of yesterday, May 9, no new cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Taiwan for a period of 27 days.
Dr Chang said that of 66,460 suspected cases, 440 people had tested positive for the disease. Of the total confirmed cases, 308 (70%) were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, 96 (21.8%) had pneumonia symptoms, and 36 (8.2%) were diagnosed as having acute respiratory distress syndrome, according to Taipei Times.
The statistics showed that Taiwan has experienced an infection rate of 18.6 confirmed cases per million, and a 0.3 deaths per million attributed to the disease. This contrasted with several European countries and the US, where more that 3,000 cases of infection per million have been recorded.
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