COVID-19: Your Guide to Treatment

COVID-19: Your Guide to Treatment

This article is for anyone who's interested in learning more about COVID-19. The goal of this patient education activity is to improve knowledge about medicines to treat COVID-19.

You will learn about:

  • How medicines to treat COVID-19 are allowed for use

  • What medicines are available and their possible side effects

  • How doctors decide which treatment may be right

  • Questions to ask your doctor

Medicines listed in this activity have either a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or have been given an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The information on COVID-19 is continually changing. The content in this activity is accurate based on the information that was available at the time of its publication. This resource is provided for educational and informational purposes only. We do not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 


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What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a type of virus called a coronavirus. Exposure to the virus can cause an infection that usually starts in the upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, and throat). Because this specific coronavirus is new (novel) and humans haven't been exposed to it before, COVID-19 is a new disease.

COVID-19 is mainly spread by droplets in the air containing the virus that form when someone who's infected talks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus then infects someone else when the droplets enter their mouth, nose, or eyes.


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How a Prescription Medicine Is Allowed for Use

Before a medicine can be prescribed for use, it's reviewed by the FDA, the US agency that makes sure it's safe and effective. When the FDA approves a medicine, it means it has enough benefits to outweigh any known and potential risks.

In certain situations, the FDA can also make a medicine available for use by giving it an Emergency Use Authorization, or an EUA. The EUA process has been around for over 15 years and has been an important tool in past emergency situations.


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An EUA to Treat COVID-19

A medicine may get an EUA to treat COVID-19 when certain standards are met. These include that it's reasonable to believe it meets certain standards for safety, and that it may be effective to treat patients with COVID-19.

Medicines with an EUA are not approved to treat COVID-19, but may have been approved for other conditions. There is limited information about their safety and effectiveness for COVID-19, but the FDA is allowing their use because COVID-19 is a public health emergency and can be serious or life-threatening.


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Medicine Approved by the FDA to Treat COVID-19

Remdesivir is a medicine approved by the FDA for people 12 years of age and older who weigh 40 kg (about 88 pounds) or more. It's only for hospitalized patients (people sick enough with COVID-19 to be in the hospital).

Possible side effects of remdesivir may include nausea, allergic reaction, and increased liver enzymes that your doctor can check for.

All medicines can have side effects. Not all side effects for the medicines in this activity are listed, so be sure to check with your doctor for a full list of possible side effects.


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Medicines That Have an EUA to Treat COVID-19

These medicines have an EUA from the FDA for people 12 years of age and older who weigh 40 kg (about 88 pounds) or more:

  • Baricitinib -- to be used with remdesivir -- may benefit certain hospitalized people who have COVID-19. It's been previously approved by the FDA to treat another condition

  • Casirivimab plus imdevimab (given together as a mixture) and bamlanivimab plus etesevimab (given together as a mixture) are for people who are not hospitalized but have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms and are at a high risk for severe symptoms or the need to be hospitalized

These medicines are called investigational for COVID-19 because they're still being studied for the condition.


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Side Effects of Medicines With an EUA

Possible side effects of baricitinib may include serious infections (other than COVID-19), blood clots, allergic reaction, and changes in lab tests in your blood cell counts or due to how your kidneys and liver are working.

Casirivimab plus imdevimab and bamlanivimab plus etesevimab may cause allergic reaction, or interfere with your body's ability to fight off a future COVID-19 infection and may lower your immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine. These are not all the possible side effects. Serious and unexpected side effects may happen. These medicines are still being studied so it's possible that all of the risks are not known at this time.


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How Do Doctors Decide Which Treatment May Be Right?

Your doctor will consider many factors before discussing which treatment may be for you. 

Be sure to tell your doctor about any medical conditions you have, if you're pregnant or breast feeding, and any medicines -- including those you can get without a prescription -- and supplements you take. 

Since COVID-19 is still a new disease, information is being continually learned about it and medicines that may be used to treat it. Right now, no one knows if you can get COVID-19 again after you had it and were treated.   


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Dr Nahid Bhadelia talks about different factors doctors consider when deciding which treatment may be appropriate for a patient with COVID-19.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Questions you can ask your doctor about medicines to treat COVID-19 can include:

  • If I get COVID-19, how will you decide which treatment may be for me?

  • Am I at an increased risk for severe illness?

  • What treatments are available, and what are their side effects?

  • How, when, and where are medicines to treat COVID-19 given?

  • What does it mean if a medicine is approved by the FDA, or has an EUA?

  • What can I do to protect myself and others from COVID-19?


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A patient talks about her experience receiving treatment for COVID-19 and questions she asked her doctor.

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You have successfully completed the program:COVID-19: Your Guide to Treatment

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

What to Do If You're Sick

Treatments Your Doctor Might Recommend if You're Sick

When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions


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Authors and Disclosures


Nahid Bhadelia, MD, MALD

Associate Professor, Section of Infectious Diseases, Boston University School of Medicine.

Disclosure: Nahid Bhadelia, MD, MALD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Clinician Reviewer

Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD

Senior Director, Learning & Development, Medscape, LLC.

Disclosure: Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC.

Disclosure: Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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