COVID-19 Evidence Alerts
from McMaster PLUSTM

Current best evidence for clinical care (more info)

Treatment Cheng Q, Chen J, Jia Q, et al. Efficacy and safety of current medications for treating severe and non-severe COVID-19 patients: an updated network meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Aging (Albany NY). 2021 Sep 16;13(18):21866-21902. doi: 10.18632/aging.203522. Epub 2021 Sep 16.

BACKGROUND: Many recent studies have investigated the role of drug interventions for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection. However, an important question has been raised about how to select the effective and secure medications for COVID-19 patients. The aim of this analysis was to assess the efficacy and safety of the various medications available for severe and non-severe COVID-19 patients based on randomized placebo-controlled trials (RPCTs).

METHODS: We did an updated network meta-analysis. We searched the databases from inception until July 31, 2021, with no language restrictions. We included RPCTs comparing 49 medications and placebo in the treatment of severe and non-severe patients (aged 18 years or older) with COVID-19 infection. We extracted data on the trial and patient characteristics, and the following primary outcomes: all-cause mortality, the ratios of virological cure, and treatment-emergent adverse events. Odds ratio (OR) and their 95% confidence interval (CI) were used as effect estimates.

RESULTS: From 3,869 publications, we included 61 articles related to 73 RPCTs (57 in non-severe COVID-19 patients and 16 in severe COVID-19 patients), comprising 20,680 patients. The mean sample size was 160 (interquartile range 96-393) in this study. The median duration of follow-up drugs intervention was 28 days (interquartile range 21-30). For increase in virological cure, we only found that proxalutamide (OR 9.16, 95% CI 3.15-18.30), ivermectin (OR 6.33, 95% CI 1.22-32.86), and low dosage bamlanivimab (OR 5.29, 95% CI 1.12-24.99) seemed to be associated with non-severe COVID-19 patients when compared with placebo, in which proxalutamide seemed to be better than low dosage bamlanivimab (OR 5.69, 95% CI 2.43-17.65). For decrease in all-cause mortality, we found that proxalutamide (OR 0.13, 95% CI 0.09-0.19), imatinib (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.25-0.96), and baricitinib (OR 0.58, 95% CI 0.42-0.82) seemed to be associated with non-severe COVID-19 patients; however, we only found that immunoglobulin gamma (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.08-0.89) was related to severe COVID-19 patients when compared with placebo. For change in treatment-emergent adverse events, we only found that sotrovimab (OR 0.21, 95% CI 0.13-0.34) was associated with non-severe COVID-19 patients; however, we did not find any medications that presented a statistical difference when compared with placebo among severe COVID-19 patients.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that marked variations exist in the efficacy and safety of medications between severe and non-severe patients with COVID-19. It seems that monoclonal antibodies (e.g., low dosage bamlanivimab, baricitinib, imatinib, and sotrovimab) are a better choice for treating severe or non-severe COVID-19 patients. Clinical decisions to use preferentially medications should carefully consider the risk-benefit profile based on efficacy and safety of all active interventions in patients with COVID-19 at different levels of infection.

Discipline / Specialty Area Score
Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists
Internal Medicine
Infectious Disease
Comments from MORE raters

Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists rater

Well performed network meta-analysis.

Infectious Disease rater

From an infectious disease point, given the climate we are in with COVID, this study having a better understanding of medications for the treatment of COVID is very important. This study looked at 61 articles and over 20,000 patients. Monoclonal antibodies seems to be effective for COVID treatment and is one of the main therapies we use for COVID cases at risk for higher progression to severe disease.

Internal Medicine rater

The authors of a meta-analysis study interventions for COVID-19 should request and personally review individual patient data.