As the COVID-19 epidemic continues to spread worldwide, the race to find treatments and vaccines for the disease is heating up. Among those searching for solutions is AbbVie (ABBV 1.62%), which is investigating whether its HIV drug Kaletra could be a treatment for COVID-19.

Kaletra is a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, both of which are antiviral drugs that prevent HIV from multiplying inside a patient's body. There have been reports coming from China that Kaletra (also sold as Aluvia) has shown effectiveness as a treatment for COVID-19, but AbbVie has no access to the clinical data involved, and therefore could not assess the accuracy of those reports. 

However, the company recently announced that it was partnering with health agencies worldwide to study the efficacy of Kaletra as a treatment for COVID-19, among them the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and European health authorities. 

Microscopic views of the Coronavirus

Image Source: Getty Images.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. now exceeds 750, the worldwide total has topped 109,000, and the CDC recently warned that this disease outbreak could continue until 2021. If one of the biotech companies working to find a treatment or a vaccine for the disease were to succeed, it could profit handsomely. With that in mind, investors in the healthcare sector should continue to monitor AbbVie, Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.29%), Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO 7.79%), and Novavax (NVAX 9.11%), all of which are racing to find an effective response to the novel coronavirus.