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Medication for treating COVID-19

4-minute read

If you develop severe symptoms such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, call triple zero (000) immediately and 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.

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.

Remdesivir

Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine which can reduce the recovery time for people with severe COVID-19 infection. Antiviral medicines are used to treat viral infections.

Remdesivir is only available to people who are very unwell in hospital and need supplemental oxygen, or a high level of support, to breathe.

There’s no evidence that remdesivir prevents COVID-19 infection or relieves milder cases.

Sotrovimab

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody treatment. The COVID-19 virus uses a spike protein that attaches to and enters human cells, causing infection. Monocloncal antibodies bind to the spike protein, stopping the virus from attaching itself to human cells, and tagging it for destruction.

A single dose of sotrovimab needs to be given intravenously in a healthcare facility. It’s been shown to reduce hospitalisation or death by almost 80% in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of developing severe COVID-19.

This treatment must be given within 5 days of symptoms starting. It’s 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.

Ronapreve (casirivimab + imdevimab)

Ronapreve is another monoclonal antibody treatment and 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, the virus; and/or
  • have a medical condition that means they’re unlikely to be protected by vaccination; or
  • haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19

However, ronapreve is not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19.

Ronapreve has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by up to 70% in patients with COVID-19.

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: October 2021


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