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Pentoxifylline and Oxypurinol: Potential Drugs to Prevent the <i>“Cytokine Release (Storm) Syndrome”</i> Caused by SARS-CoV-2?

[ Vol. 26 , Issue. 35 ]


Francisco J. López-Iranzo, Ana M. López-Rodas , Luis Franco and Gerardo López-Rodas *   Pages 4515 - 4521 ( 7 )


Background: COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, is a potentially lethal, rapidly-expanding pandemic and many efforts are being carried out worldwide to understand and control the disease. COVID-19 patients may display a cytokine release syndrome, which causes severe lung inflammation, leading, in many instances, to death.

Objective: This paper is intended to explore the possibilities of controlling the COVID-19-associated hyperinflammation by using licensed drugs with anti-inflammatory effects.

Hypothesis: We have previously described that pentoxifylline alone, or in combination with oxypurinol, reduces the systemic inflammation caused by experimentally-induced pancreatitis in rats. Pentoxifylline is an inhibitor of TNF-α production and oxypurinol inhibits xanthine oxidase. TNF-α, in turn, activates other inflammatory genes such as Nos2, Icam or IL-6, which regulate migration and infiltration of neutrophils into the pulmonary interstitial tissue, causing injury to the lung parenchyma. In acute pancreatitis, the anti-inflammatory action of pentoxifylline seems to be mediated by the prevention of the rapid and presumably transient loss of PP2A activity. This may also occur in the hyperinflammatory -cytokine releasing phase- of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Therefore, it may be hypothesized that early treatment of COVID-19 patients with pentoxifylline, alone or in combination with oxypurinol, would prevent the potentially lethal acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Conclusion: Pentoxifylline and oxypurinol are licensed drugs used for diseases other than COVID-19 and, therefore, phase I clinical trials would not be necessary for the administration to SARS-CoV-2- infected people. It would be worth investigating their potential effects against the hyperinflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.


Pentoxifylline, oxypurinol, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, pro-inflammatory cytokines, systemic inflammatory response, serine/ threonine phosphatase PP2A, cytokine release syndrome.


Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Medical Specialist in Family and Community Medicine, SAMU Service, Hospital of Sagunto, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Valencia, Valencia

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