AbbVie HIV Drugs Being Tested as Possible Coronavirus Antidote

A mix of drugs made by AbbVie used to treat HIV patients with pneumonia is being tested in China as a possible antidote to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

A mix of drugs made by AbbVie  (ABBV) - Get Report used to treat HIV patients suffering from pneumonia is being tested by Chinese authorities as a possible antidote to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The Beijing branch of China’s National Health Commission said a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, sold under the brand name Kaletra by AbbVie, is part of its latest treatment plan for patients infected by the virus, which has killed at 81 people in China and sickened more than 2,800 worldwide.

In guidance published last Thursday, the NHC said there is no effective anti-virus medicine but suggested taking two lopinavir/ritonavir pills and inhaling a dose of nebulized alpha-interferon twice a day.

Medical journal Lancet said on Friday that a clinical trial is under way using ritonavir and lopinavir to treat cases of the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention will start developing a vaccine, according to the Global Times.

AbbVie is donating more than $1 million worth of the drugs in an effort to help scientists find a cure to the virus.

China’s National Health Commission has suggested Aluvia, a pill containing lopinavir and ritonavir, as one of two possible treatments for the symptoms of the virus currently known as 2019-nCoV in the absence of effective antiviral medications. The other part is nebulized alpha-interferon.

The U.S. has confirmed its fifth case of the deadly coronavirus, while Canada announced that it has two probable cases - a husband and wife duo who recently returned to Toronto from Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated.

The death toll has increased to 81, while the total number of confirmed cases in China increased to 2,744, with about half of them from Hubei province.

AbbVie isn't the only drugmaker on the hunt for a coronavirus cure. Gilead Sciences  (GILD) - Get Report, Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report and other pharma firms are also looking into potential treatments - by re-purposing medicines developed against other lethal viruses and using new technologies to rapidly test and develop a vaccine for them.

Shares of AbbVie were up 1.14% at $84.39 in New York trading on Monday, one of the few companies posting gains in an otherwise down session driven by concerns over the global economic impact of the spreading virus.