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Original article

Vol. 150 No. 5153 (2020)

Early experimental COVID-19 therapies: associations with length of hospital stay, mortality and related costs

Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2020;150:w20446



Hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir have been used as experimental therapies to treat COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic. Randomised controlled trials have recently shown that there are no meaningful benefits of these two therapies in hospitalised patients. Uncertainty remains regarding the potential harmful impact of these therapies as very early treatments and their burden to the health care system. The present study investigated the length of hospital stay (LOS), mortality, and costs of hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir or their combination in comparison with standard of care among patients hospitalised for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


This retrospective observational cohort study took place in the Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland (n = 840) between 26 February and 31 May 2020. Demographics, treatment regimens, comorbidities, the modified National Early Warning Score (mNEWS) on admission, and contraindications to COVID-19 treatment options were assessed. Outcomes included LOS, in-hospital mortality, and drug and LOS costs.


After successful propensity score matching, patients treated with (1) hydroxychloroquine, (2) lopinavir/ritonavir or (3) their combination had on average 3.75 additional hospitalisation days (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.37–6.12, p = 0.002), 1.23 additional hospitalisation days (95% CI −1.24 – 3.51, p = 0.319), and 4.19 additional hospitalisation days (95% CI 1.52–5.31, p <0.001), respectively, compared with patients treated with the standard of care. Neither experimental therapy was significantly associated with mortality. These additional hospital days amounted to 1010.77 additional days for hydroxychloroquine and hydroxychloroquine combined with lopinavir/ritonavir, resulting in an additional cost of US$ 2,492,214 (95%CI US$ 916,839–3,450,619).


Prescribing experimental therapies for COVID-19 was not associated with a reduced LOS and might have increased the pressure put on healthcare systems.


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