Systematic review on the therapeutic options for COVID-19: Clinical evidence of drug efficacy and implications

Abdullahi Rabiu Abubakar, Ibrahim Haruna Sani, Brian Godman, Santosh Kumar, Salequl Islam, Iffat Jahan, Mainul Haque*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


A novel coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in Wuhan, China, and quickly spread globally. Several treatments have been proposed, many of which have proven ineffective. Consequently, there is a need to review the published evidence of drug clinical trials to guide future prescribing. A systematic review of published clinical trials and retrospective observational studies was carried out. The search was made using PubMed, Embase, MEDLINE, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) databases. Articles published between January 2020 and October 2020 and written in the English language were retrieved and included in the study. Researches that used traditional medicine, in-vitro and invivo animal studies, as well as reviews were excluded. Seventy-three relevant articles that fulfilled the inclusion criteria were finally selected and reviewed. Hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and azithromycin produced no clinical evidence of efficacy in randomized controlled clinical trials (RCT). However, retrospective observational studies reported the efficacy of remdesivir and lopinavir/ritonavir in reducing viral load, although there have been concerns with lopinavir/ritonavir and, more recently, remdesivir. Recently, tocilizumab, dexamethasone, and methylprednisolone significantly relieved lung inflammation and decreased mortality in patients with severe COVID-19. In addition, convalescent plasma was effective in boosting strong immunity among patients with mild COVID-19. There is currently no single worldwide approved therapeutic option for patients with COVID-19 despite the initial hype with medicines, including hydroxychloroquine. Nonetheless, dexamethasone has shown promise in symptomatic treatment and convalescent plasma in boosting immunity. New treatments are currently being researched, and the findings will be reported accordingly to provide evidence-based guidance for prescribers and policymakers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4673-4695
Number of pages23
JournalInfection and Drug Resistance
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Clinical-trials
  • Dexamethasone
  • Efficacy
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir
  • Remdesivir
  • Therapeutic-option


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