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Itraconazole for COVID-19: Preclinical Studies and a Proof-of-Concept Pilot Clinical Study
32 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2020More...
Background: Drug repurposing is an attractive strategy to rapidly develop affordable therapy against COVID-19. The antifungal drug itraconazole exerts in vitro activity against SARS-CoV-2 comparable to that of hydroxychloroquine. Preclinical and clinical studies are required to investigate if itraconazole is effective for the treatment and/or prevention of COVID-19.
Methods: Due to the initial absence of preclinical models the effect of itraconazole was explored in a clinical, proof-of-concept, open-label, single-center study, in which hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were randomly assigned to receive standard of care with or without itraconazole. The primary outcome was the cumulative score of the clinical status until day 15 based on the 7-point ordinal scale of the World Health Organization. Other outcomes included time to sustained clinical improvement, duration of supplemental oxygen and evolution of nasopharyngeal viral load. In parallel, itraconazole was evaluated in a newly established hamster model of acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission, as soon as the model was validated.
Findings: In the hamster acute infection model, itraconazole did not reduce viral load in lungs, stools or ileum, despite adequate plasma and lung drug concentrations. In the transmission model, itraconazole failed to prevent viral transmission. The clinical trial was prematurely discontinued after evaluation of the preclinical studies and interim analysis that showed no trends for a more favorable outcome with itraconazole: mean cumulative score of the clinical status 49 vs 47, ratio of geometric means 1.01 (95% CI 0.85 to 1.19), median time to clinical improvement 10 vs 9 days, hazard ratio 0.94 (95% CI 0.56 to 1.60) for itraconazole vs standard of care.
Interpretation: Despite in vitro activity, itraconazole was not effective in a preclinical COVID-19 hamster model. A proof-of-concept clinical study was ended prematurely because of futility.
Trial Registration: (EudraCT 2020-001243-15)
Funding: Covid-19-Fund KU Leuven, Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO), Horizon 2020, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Declaration of Interests: Initial dug screening and discovery of the antiviral effect of itraconazole was done in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson and described in a separate manuscript. Scientists from Johnson & Johnson also performed drug measurements on hamster samples and provided guidance on the dosing regimens for the preclinical studies. The company had no role in the design, execution, analysis, publication or funding of the clinical trial.
Author Conflict of Interests: None to declare.
Ethics Approval Statement: The institutional Ethical Committee approved all animal experiments (license P065-2020).
The study was conducted in accordance with the International Conference on Harmonization Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice and the Declaration of Helsinki. The protocol was approved by the institutional Ethics Committee and by the Belgian Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (EudraCT 2020-001243-15). The trial was part of the DAWn clinical studies.
Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, itraconazole, drug repurposing, antivirals
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