Press release, July 20, 2020: A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in the United Kingdom evaluated

The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel recommends against the use of interferons for the treatment of patients with severe or critical COVID-19, except in a clinical trial (AIII). There are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of interferon beta for the treatment of early (i.e., <7 days from symptom onset) mild and moderate COVID-19.

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Rationale

Clinical Data for COVID-19

Interferon Beta-1a

Preprint manuscript posted online, July 13, 2020: An open-label, randomized trial at a single center in Iran evaluated subcutaneous interferon beta-1a (three times weekly for 2 weeks) in patients with severe COVID-19. There was no difference in the primary outcome of time to clinical response between the interferon beta-1a group (n = 42) and the control group (n = 39), and there was no difference between the groups in overall length of hospital stay, length of intensive care unit stay, or duration of mechanical ventilation. The reported 28-day overall mortality was lower in the interferon beta-1a group; however, four patients in the interferon beta-1a group who died before receiving the fourth dose of interferon beta-1a were excluded from the analysis, which makes it difficult to interpret these results.2

Combination of Interferon Beta-1b, Lopinavir/Ritonavir, and Ribavirin in the Treatment of Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19

The time to a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction SARS-CoV-2 test on an NP swab (the primary endpoint) was shorter in the combination therapy group than in the control group (median of 7 days vs. 12 days; P = 0.001). The combination group had more rapid clinical improvement as assessed by the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) 2 and Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score and a shorter hospital stay (median of 9 days for the combination group vs. 14.5 days for the control group; P = 0.016). There was no difference in oxygen use between the groups. The antiviral and clinical effect was more pronounced in the patients hospitalized within 7 days of symptom onset, suggesting that interferon beta-1b with or without ribavirin was the critical component of the combination antiviral therapy. The study provides no information about the effect of interferon beta-1b when administered ≥7 days after symptom onset.3