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Medications for treating COVID-19

8-minute read

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.

While there is no cure for COVID-19, several medicines have been developed that are proving to be effective treatments for people with the illness. The following medications are not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination again COVID-19.

Approved medicines for treating COVID-19

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which regulates medicines and medical devices in Australia, has approved the following medicines for the treatment of COVID-19.

Antiviral treatments

Antiviral treatments stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 from replicating and causing more severe illness.

Remdesivir (VEKLURY)

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that was provisionally approved by the TGA in July 2020. Remdesivir can reduce the recovery time for people with COVID-19 infection.

It has been provisionally approved for use in adults and adolescent patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms who have been hospitalised and are severely unwell, requiring oxygen or high-level support to breathe.

Lagevrio (molnupiravir)

Lagevrio is an antiviral combination therapy that inhibits replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and was provisionally approved by the TGA in August 2021. It has been approved to treat adults with COVID-19 who don’t require oxygen but who are at increased risk of hospitalisation or death. Lagevrio is most beneficial to people who are aged 60 years and older, or people who have significant medical conditions, which make them more likely to become seriously unwell and end up in hospital when infected with COVID-19.

It should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis and within 5 days of the start of symptoms.

The use of Lagevriois not recommended if you are planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It can also affect how birth control works, so women who are planning a pregnancy or currently taking birth control should speak to their doctor about different contraceptives options.

The full list of medicines that must not be used with Lagevrio are in the product information.

Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir)

Paxlovid is an antiviral combination therapy that inhibits the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that was provisionally approved by the TGA in October 2021. It has been approved for adults with COVID-19 who don’t require oxygen and who are at increased risk of hospitalisation or death.

Paxlovid is most beneficial to people who are aged 60 years and older, or people who have significant medical conditions, which make them more likely to become seriously unwell and end up in hospital when infected with COVID-19.

It should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis and within 5 days of the start of symptoms.

The use of Paxlovid is not recommended if you are planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It can also affect how birth control works, so women who are planning a pregnancy or currently taking birth control should speak to their doctor about different contraceptives options.

It should also not be used in patients with severely reduced kidney or liver function.

Paxlovid must not be used with a number of other commonly used medicines and is not recommended for people who have received a booster dose. The full list of medicines that must not be used with Paxlovid are in the product information.

Doctors will need to carefully review current medications and medical conditions to see if it is safe to use in patients.

Monoclonal antibody treatments

Monoclonal antibody treatments prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 from invading cells and causing more serious illness.

Sotrovimab (XEVUDY)

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody treatment that was provisionally approved by the TGA in August 2021. It is used to treat people aged 12 years and older (who weigh at least 40 kilograms) with COVID-19 who do not require oxygen, but who are at increased risk of needing to be treated in hospital or death.

It is mostly recommended for older people who have one or more of these risk factors: diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, lung disease and moderate-to-severe asthma.

Sotrovimab 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 of symptoms starting.

Ronapreve (casirivimab + imdevimab)

Ronapreve is a monoclonal antibody treatment provisionally approved by the TGA in October 2021. It is recommended for people aged 12 years and older (who weigh at least 40 kilograms) and who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. It’s 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’re 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.

Tocilizumab (ACTEMRA)

Tocilizumab is a monoclonal antibody treatment that was provisionally approved by the TGA in September 2021. Tocilizumab is approved as an intravenous treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalised adults aged 18 years and older who are receiving systemic corticosteroids and require supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

Tocilizumab 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 risk of death for those with severe COVID-19.

Regdanvimab (REGKIRONA)

Regdanvimab is a monoclonal antibody treatment that was provisionally approved by the TGA in August 2021. It’s used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults.

Regdanvimab is intended to prevent serious illness associated with COVID-19.

Evusheld (tixagevimab and cilgavimab)

Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody preventative treatment that was provisionally approved by the TGA in October 2021. This treatment stops the virus from entering the body's cells and causing infection.

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, known as pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19. It is approved for people:

  • who have moderate-to-severe immune compromise due to a medical condition or 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 due to a history of severe adverse reaction to a COVID‐19 vaccine or COVID‐19 vaccine component

This preventative treatment is not a substitute for getting vaccinated if you are able.

More COVID-19 medicines are undergoing clinical trials and the TGA’s vigorous approval process. For up-to-date information, visit the TGA website.

Medicines not approved for treating COVID-19

While the TGA has approved several medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 in Australia, claims have been made that medicines used to treat other conditions might be used to treat COVID-19. These claims are incorrect and potentially harmful to people.

What is ivermectin and can it be used to treat COVID-19?

Ivermectin is used to treat infections caused by parasites, such as mites and worms. In Australia, ivermectin has been approved for the treatment of roundworm infections, scabies and inflammatory rosacea.

Ivermectin isn’t approved for the treatment of COVID-19 in Australia — or in other developed countries. Its use by the general public for COVID-19 is strongly discouraged by the National COVID Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the TGA, the World Health Organization and the US Food and Drug Administration.

You shouldn’t buy any medicines — including ivermectin — from unverified websites since this can put you at serious risk of unpredictable or severe adverse reactions.

What is hydroxychloroquine and can it be used to treat COVID-19?

Hydroxychloroquine is a medicine used to treat some autoimmune diseases, as well as treat or prevent malaria.

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce strongly advises against using hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 in Australia. 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.

Will I need antibiotics for COVID-19?

No, because antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses. Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections. Unnecessary administration of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is a serious healthcare problem that affects everyone.

In some patients who develop pneumonia, however, secondary bacterial pneumonia can occur. In this situation, antibiotics may be required.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2022


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