Favipiravir, lopinavir-ritonavir, or combination therapy (FLARE): A randomised, double-blind, 2 × 2 factorial placebo-controlled trial of early antiviral therapy in COVID-19.PLoS Med. 2022 10; 19(10):e1004120.PM
Early antiviral treatment is effective for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) but currently available agents are expensive. Favipiravir is routinely used in many countries, but efficacy is unproven. Antiviral combinations have not been systematically studied. We aimed to evaluate the effect of favipiravir, lopinavir-ritonavir or the combination of both agents on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viral load trajectory when administered early.
METHODS AND FINDINGS
We conducted a Phase 2, proof of principle, randomised, placebo-controlled, 2 × 2 factorial, double-blind trial of ambulatory outpatients with early COVID-19 (within 7 days of symptom onset) at 2 sites in the United Kingdom. Participants were randomised using a centralised online process to receive: favipiravir (1,800 mg twice daily on Day 1 followed by 400 mg 4 times daily on Days 2 to 7) plus lopinavir-ritonavir (400 mg/100 mg twice daily on Day 1, followed by 200 mg/50 mg 4 times daily on Days 2 to 7), favipiravir plus lopinavir-ritonavir placebo, lopinavir-ritonavir plus favipiravir placebo, or both placebos. The primary outcome was SARS-CoV-2 viral load at Day 5, accounting for baseline viral load. Between 6 October 2020 and 4 November 2021, we recruited 240 participants. For the favipiravir+lopinavir-ritonavir, favipiravir+placebo, lopinavir-ritonavir+placebo, and placebo-only arms, we recruited 61, 59, 60, and 60 participants and analysed 55, 56, 55, and 58 participants, respectively, who provided viral load measures at Day 1 and Day 5. In the primary analysis, the mean viral load in the favipiravir+placebo arm had changed by -0.57 log10 (95% CI -1.21 to 0.07, p = 0.08) and in the lopinavir-ritonavir+placebo arm by -0.18 log10 (95% CI -0.82 to 0.46, p = 0.58) compared to the placebo arm at Day 5. There was no significant interaction between favipiravir and lopinavir-ritonavir (interaction coefficient term: 0.59 log10, 95% CI -0.32 to 1.50, p = 0.20). More participants had undetectable virus at Day 5 in the favipiravir+placebo arm compared to placebo only (46.3% versus 26.9%, odds ratio (OR): 2.47, 95% CI 1.08 to 5.65; p = 0.03). Adverse events were observed more frequently with lopinavir-ritonavir, mainly gastrointestinal disturbance. Favipiravir drug levels were lower in the combination arm than the favipiravir monotherapy arm, possibly due to poor absorption. The major limitation was that the study population was relatively young and healthy compared to those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the current doses, no treatment significantly reduced viral load in the primary analysis. Favipiravir requires further evaluation with consideration of dose escalation. Lopinavir-ritonavir administration was associated with lower plasma favipiravir concentrations.
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT04499677 EudraCT: 2020-002106-68.