The majority of people who get COVID-19 do not need medical treatment and can usually fight the infection on their own. This is not true for everyone, especially those who are high risk and have certain health conditions.
In an effort to prevent hospitalization and serious illness, several options are available, including antiviral pills and intravenous treatments. The criteria vary greatly for each, and depending on your situation, one option may be recommended by your doctor over another.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people seeking treatment to contact their healthcare provider, even if they have only minor symptoms.
As new subvariants continue to spread across the United States, here’s what to know about treatment options, including eligibility and possible side effects.
The latest treatment to gain widespread attention, Paxlovid is an oral antiviral pill that stops viruses from replicating inside cells in the body and is intended for people currently infected with COVID-19. Paxlovid is available to people ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds, who have a positive COVID-19 test result, have symptoms, and are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19, according to an article by Yale Medicine.
In the elderly and other high-risk patients, the drug has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. The pills work best if taken within five days of the onset of symptoms.
Research suggests that a minority of those who have received Paxlovid experience a rebound case of the virus, like what happened to President Joe Biden. In these cases, the symptoms reappeared four or five days after the end of treatment. The CDC said in June that a brief return of symptoms could be a natural part of a COVID infection and unrelated to Paxlovid. No further treatment is needed for those experiencing a rebound, according to health officials.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug was shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization in non-hospitalized patients by 87% when given as a three-day course.
Paxlovid interacts with many different medications, including blood thinners and cholesterol pills, so make sure your doctor is aware of your current medication list before discussing treatment.
Also known by the brand name Lageviro, molnupiravir is recommended for people 18 and older who are at high risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. However, it should only be used when Paxlovid, Bebtelovimab and Remdesivir are not available, as its effectiveness has been determined to be lower than originally reported.
The drug should be taken as soon as possible, within five days of the onset of symptoms, according to Yale Medicine. Merck, the company behind the drug, initially reported 50% efficacy, but later adjusted it to 30%.
People who have been prescribed the drug should take four capsules every 12 hours for five days.
Molnupiravir is not recommended during pregnancy, as it has not been studied in pregnant women and has shown potential harmful effects in in vitro studies. Although the drug is still being studied and the full risks are not known, the most common side effects are diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.
Other possible treatments
The first drug approved to treat COVID-19 in late 2020, Remdesivir is the only antiviral treatment to receive full Food and Drug Administration approval — at least so far. Other treatments, including Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, are available under emergency use authorization through the FDA.
Approved for children and adults, Remdesivir is administered intravenously or by injection and must be administered in a health care setting.
To receive treatment, infants and children must be at least 28 days old, weigh more than 6.5 pounds, and be hospitalized or at high risk of severe illness.
Although nausea is the most common side effect, hypersensitivity, including infusion-related reactions and anaphylactic reactions, has occurred after treatment in some cases, according to Yale Medicine. Given in both outpatient and hospital settings, the drug inserts into new viral genes to block virus replication, shortening the time critically ill patients need to recover.
Although the data showed that not all monoclonal antibody treatments worked against all variants of COVID-19, some were found to be effective against the omicron strain.
Bebtelovimab, which was authorized in February, is available for adults and children aged 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds and are at high risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19. An intravenous injection is given over at least 30 seconds, according to health officials, who said the drug should be given within seven days of the onset of symptoms.
Considered an alternative treatment by the National Institutes of Health, it should only be used in cases where Paxlovid or Remdesivir are not available or appropriate.
Another monoclonal antibody, Evusheld, serves a different purpose.
Unlike the aforementioned treatments, it serves to prevent immunocompromised people who don’t respond to vaccination from getting sick, according to Yale Medicine. Available to anyone 12 years and older and weighing 88 pounds, the drug should not be given to those with an active infection or anyone who has recently been exposed.
The doses will be given in the buttocks, in two separate injections, one after the other, with repeated doses every six months. Hypersensitivity, bruising, swelling, pain and pain at the injection site are possible after the injection.