Medications for treating COVID-19
If you develop symptoms such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, call triple zero (000) immediately. Tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival if you have COVID-19.
There is no cure for COVID-19 but several medicines have been developed that are proving to be effective treatments for people with the illness. The following medications are not meant to be used as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19.
What are COVID-19 treatments?
COVID-19 treatments help stop someone from becoming very sick with COVID-19. Not everyone diagnosed with COVID-19 will need these treatments. They are of most benefit to people who are at the most risk of severe disease or people who are in hospital with severe disease.
There are 2 types of COVID-19 treatments available in Australia: antiviral and monoclonal antibody treatments.
- Antiviral treatments help to stop a virus from infecting healthy cells that can make you sick.
- Monoclonal antibody treatments work by attaching to the virus to block it from entering human cells. This helps fight the harmful virus off.
These treatments are only available with a prescription.
COVID-19 treatments are not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19. You should get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’re able to.
What oral COVID-19 antiviral medicines can people take at home?
People with COVID-19 who don’t need oxygen and are not in hospital may be eligible for either Lagevrio or Paxlovid if they meet certain criteria. Lagevrio and Paxlovid are oral COVID-19 antiviral medicines (taken by mouth) that help to stop the COVID-19 infection from becoming severe and making you very sick.
Lagevrio and Paxlovid can be prescribed by your doctor or nurse practitioner. You need to start taking these medicines as soon as possible after symptoms of COVID-19 began for them to be effective. It is best to start taking them within 5 days after your symptoms start.
Learn about the side effects of Lagevrio and Paxlovid by downloading the consumer medicine information leaflets.
Who can have oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine?
You may be eligible for an oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine if you:
- are 18 years and older, and
- have COVID-19, and
- are at higher risk of becoming very sick
How do I get oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine?
If you test positive to COVID-19 using either a PCR test or rapid antigen test (RAT), book a telehealth appointment with your doctor. They will advise whether you can have an oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine.
If your doctor recommends that you take an oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine, you will need a prescription.
Your doctor can send the pharmacist your prescription electronically. This way, a friend or family member can collect the medication for you. It can also be delivered to your home.
If you live in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia or Victoria, you can call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for an initial assessment of your eligibility for oral COVID-19 antiviral medication. The helpline will help connect you to a doctor for further assessment and a prescription.
If you cannot get an appointment with your doctor quickly, use the healthdirect Service Finder to search for a doctor. Or you can make an appointment at a government-run GP respiratory clinic, where you can be seen by a doctor either in person or via telehealth.
If cannot reach your doctor or a GP respiratory clinic, you can call a medical deputising service. These services can offer you telehealth appointments while you stay at home recovering from COVID-19.
How much does oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine cost?
Lagevrio and Paxlovid are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This means these medications are subsidised, andmore affordable for people with a medicare card
From 1 January 2023, the maximum cost for a pharmaceutical benefit item under the PBS at a pharmacy is:
- Reduced from $42.50 to $30 for general patients
- Increased from $6.80 to $7.30 for concession card holders
Can I access oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine if I do not have a Medicare card?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and have high risk factors for severe illness, but do not have a Medicare card, you should contact your doctor or a General Practice Respiratory Clinic for advice about treatment options.
General Practice (GP) respiratory clinics offer services for free to everyone, including people who do not have a Medicare card.
People without a Medicare card may include those who are:
- not an Australian permanent resident
- not entitled to hold a valid Medicare card
- temporary entrants or temporary visa holders
- are from a country without a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with Australia
- visitors in Australia from overseas or an international student
If you do not have a Medicare card, the cost for treatment will vary depending on your circumstances. Please talk to your doctor or the General Practice Respiratory Clinic about payment options.
If you are not a permanent resident, but you do have private health insurance or travel insurance, refer to your insurance policy in relation to COVID-19 treatment costs in Australia.
Who shouldn't have oral COVID-19 antiviral medicine?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not have oral COVID-19 medicine. Instead, make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.
These medicines can also affect how birth control works.
Talk to your healthcare provider about contraception and if you are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you have severe kidney or liver disease, you should not have Paxlovid COVID-19 treatment. Talk to your doctor about alternative oral treatments.
Paxlovid must not be taken with several other commonly used medicines. The full list of medicines that must not be taken with Paxlovid are in the product information.
Doctors will need to carefully review an eligible person’s current medications and medical conditions to see if it is safe for them to take oral COVID-19 medicine.
What COVID-19 treatments can people with COVID-19 only have in a healthcare facility?
There are several COVID-19 treatments that people with COVID-19 may be eligible for if they are in a healthcare facility.
Antiviral treatments stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 from replicating and causing more severe illness.
Veklury is an antiviral drug that can reduce the recovery time for people with COVID-19 infection.
It has been provisionally approved for use in adults and adolescents with severe COVID-19 symptoms who have been hospitalised and are severely unwell.
Monoclonal antibody treatments
Monoclonal antibody treatments prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 from invading cells and causing more serious illness.
Xevudy is used to treat people 12 years and older with COVID-19 (who weigh at least 40 kilograms), who do not need oxygen but who are at increased risk of needing to be treated in hospital or death.
Xevudy is mostly recommended for older people who have one or more of these risk factors:
- chronic kidney disease
- heart failure
- lung disease
- moderate-to-severe asthma
Xevudy has been shown to reduce hospitalisation or death by almost 80% in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19. The treatment must be given within 5 days from when symptoms began. Xevudy is given by intravenous infusion by a doctor or nurse in a healthcare facility so they can see if you have signs of an allergic reaction.
Casirivimab + Imdevimab (RONAPREVE)
Ronapreve is recommended for people aged 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kilograms and are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. It is not recommended for people who need supplemental oxygen to breathe.
Ronapreve is also approved for the prevention of COVID-19 in patients of the same age and weight as above who:
- have been exposed to, or are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19
- have a medical condition that means they are unlikely to be protected by vaccination
- haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19
Ronapreve has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by up to 70% in patients with COVID-19.
Actemra is approved as an intravenous treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalised adults aged 18 years and older who are receiving systemic corticosteroids and need supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
Actemra reduces inflammation, which helps to slow the effects of the virus. It has been shown to reduce the length of hospitalisation, being placed on mechanical ventilation and the risk of death for people with severe COVID-19.
Regkirona is used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults. It is intended to prevent serious illness associated with COVID-19.
Regkirona is given by intravenous infusion by a doctor or nurse in a healthcare facility so they can see if you have signs of an allergic reaction.
Tixagevimab and cilgavimab (Evusheld)
Evusheld is approved for treatment and pre-exposure prevention (prophylaxis). It stops the virus from entering the body’s cells and causing infection. It is given by intravenous infusion in a healthcare facility under the supervision of a healthcare professional. This is in case you have any side effects.
Treatment with Evusheld
Evusheld is approved for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults:
- who do not require supplemental oxygen; and
- who are at increased risk of progressing to severe COVID-19
Pre-exposure treatment with Evusheld:
Evusheld is approved for use in people aged 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kilograms. Evusheld is for the prevention of COVID-19 in people who are at risk of infection but have not been exposed to the virus. This is known as pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19. It is approved for people who:
- have moderate-to-severe immunocompromise because of a medical condition or are currently receiving immunosuppressive medications or treatments that make it likely that they will not have an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination
- are unable to be vaccinated because of a history of severe adverse reaction to a COVID‐19 vaccine or COVID‐19 vaccine component
More COVID-19 medicines are undergoing clinical trials and the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s vigorous approval process. For up-to-date information, visit the TGA website.
Who is eligible for COVID-19 oral antivirals or other treatments?
The healthdirect COVID-19 Symptom and Antiviral Eligibility Checker will show if you may be eligible for oral antivirals or other treatments.
According to national health authorities, you may be eligible if:
- you have mild or moderate COVID-19 that is confirmed with a PCR or RAT test
- If you are asymptomatic but aged 70 years or older and have COVID-19 confirmed by a PCR test or RAT, you may still be eligible for treatment.
- you do not need oxygen. Some people may already be on home oxygen therapy for an existing underlying condition. If they don’t need to increase oxygen levels due to COVID-19, these people may be eligible for treatment.
- it is within 7 days since symptoms began (some medicines ideally should be started within 5 days to be effective)
- you’re 18 years or older and moderately to severely immunosuppressed regardless of vaccination status
- you're 70 years or older, with or without symptoms
- you're 50 years or older — and you have 2 or more of the risk factors listed below, or you’ve had a COVID-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation
- you’re 30 years or older and you're an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and you have 1 or more of the risk factors listed below, or you’ve had a COVD-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation
- you're 50 years or older — or 30 years or older if you're an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person — and you’ve had less than 3 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine
- you’ve had less than 3 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and you have at least 1 of the risk factors listed below
The risk factors for severe illness include:
- a body mass index (BMI) that’s 30 or greater
- diabetes (type 1 or 2) requiring medication
- some chronic conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, liver disease and lung disease
- serious heart conditions
- neurodevelopmental disorders
- neurological conditions
- medical-related technological dependence
- active cancer
- immunocompromising conditions or immunosuppressive therapy
- living remotely with reduced access to higher-level healthcare
- being pregnant
- past COVID-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation
Which medicines are not approved for treating COVID-19?
While the TGA has approved several medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 in Australia, they have not approved, and the National Clinical Evidence Taskforce do not recommend, the following treatments for COVID-19:
You should not buy any medicines — from unverified websites since this can put you at serious risk of unpredictable or severe adverse reactions.
There is not enough evidence to support the safe and effective use of these drugs (separately, or in combination) to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The Clinical Evidence Taskforce does not recommend the use of ivermectin, doxycycline or zinc outside of properly conducted clinical trials with appropriate ethical approval.
Hydroxychloroquine is a medicine used to treat some autoimmune diseases, as well as to treat or prevent malaria.
Australian Government health authorities strongly advise against using hydroxychloroquine to treatCOVID-19. Many clinical trials of this medicine have shown no evidence of its usefulness in treating COVID-19. It may even be dangerous for COVID-19 patients. Hydroxychloroquine has well known risks including:
- toxic effects on the heart (potentially leading to heart attacks)
- irreversible eye damage
- lowering blood sugar levels (potentially leading to coma)
Other drugs not recommended by the National Clinical Evidence Taskforce for the treatment of COVID-19 include:
- Convalescent plasma
- Hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin
- Interferon beta-1a
- Interferon beta-1a plus lopinavir-ritonavir
For more information, visit the COVID-19 — National Clinical Evidence Taskforce.
Will I need antibiotics for COVID-19?
No, because antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections. Unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is a serious healthcare problem that affects everyone.
Some people may develop secondary bacterial infections due to the COVID-19 virus, such as bacterial pneumonia. In this situation, antibiotics may be needed.
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Last reviewed: March 2023