Depending on a person’s symptoms, the most effective treatment for COVID-19 may range from rest and hydration to oxygen therapy and ventilation.
The treatment for COVID-19 is individualized as per the person’s symptoms, co-morbidities, and inflammatory markers in the blood.
- For mild signs and symptoms, adequate rest and hydration and symptomatic treatment to reduce fever and other symptoms work effectively.
- For severe infections, oxygen therapy and assisted ventilation are used.
The only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is remdesivir.
- Remdesivir is an antiviral drug approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19 in adults and children who are aged 12 years and older. It is available in the form of intravenous medication and is usually administered for 5 to 10 days.
- Paxlovid (combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir)
- The FDA has authorized a drug called Paxlovid, which is a combination of nirmatrelvir and an antiviral drug called ritonavir. Developed by Merck, Paxlovid is authorized to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in patients aged 12 years and older who are more likely to develop serious illness. The medications are available as pills.
- It is still being evaluated for its potential risks and benefits but may be able to reduce the risk of severe disease in unvaccinated people with COVID-19. More studies are needed to determine if the medication can be used to treat breakthrough infections in people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
- Another drug authorized by the FDA includes molnupiravir, which is meant to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who have greater chances of developing serious illness and who are not fit for other treatment options. The medication developed by Merck is available in the form of pills.
- Apart from the above three drugs, Olumiant (baricitinib) is also authorized by the FDA to treat COVID-19 in some cases. The FDA reports baricitinib may be used in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are on mechanical ventilators or need supplemental oxygen.
- FDA has issued emergency use approval for several monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 treatment.
- Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that help your immune system recognize and respond to the virus, thus promoting faster recovery.
- The most commonly used ones are Tixagevimab and cilgavimab.
Which are the other potential treatments for COVID-19?
There are reports of patients who benefitted from other medications; however, these medications are still being researched for their effectiveness and include:
Favipiravir and merimepodib: Still being tested in the treatment of COVID-19.
Combination of lopinavir and ritonavir: Not effective in the treatment for COVID-19 according to studies.
Dexamethasone is a steroid medication being studied for its curative and protective role in lung complications of COVID-19. The drug appears to be the most beneficial for patients who are on mechanical ventilation and, to some extent, in patients who need supplemental oxygen.
Remdesivir can be given in combination with dexamethasone in hospitalized people who need supplemental oxygen or who are on mechanical ventilation.
Other steroids may be used if dexamethasone isn't available. These include prednisone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone. Steroid medications if given in mild illness can even deteriorate COVID-19. Hence, these are reserved only for severe cases.
Some studies have proven the efficacy of tocilizumab in managing COVID-19; however, its actual effectiveness is still the subject of debate. Studies have reported that the drug can reduce the chances of a patient going on a ventilator for respiratory support and also the risk of dying.
When combined with dexamethasone in seriously ill patients, the drug seems to work better, but this depends on a case-to-case basis.
Is convalescent blood plasma therapy effective in the treatment of COVID-19?
There is ongoing research on the use of a type of immune-based therapy called convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19.
- Convalescent plasma refers to the blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19.
- This type of donated blood from people who have gotten better (convalesce) after COVID-19 infection is believed to contain antibodies, which can help fight off the COVID-19 infection in other people.
Convalescent blood plasma therapy may be used to treat some hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the early course of the disease or who have weakened immune systems. This type of immune therapy or antibody therapy is not new and has been used by doctors for other conditions for a long.
Since April 2020, more than 500,000 Americans have been treated with convalescent plasma. It seems to have a beneficial effect on reducing the risk of dying from COVID-19 infection. However, because of mixed data regarding its efficacy, its use has declined since early 2021.
Are ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine effective in treating COVID-19?
Ivermectin is a well-known medicine that is approved as an antiparasitic by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But it has not been FDA-approved to treat or prevent COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are malaria drugs that were granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA during the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they were withdrawn for EUA because studies did not show any effect in the treatment of COVID-19. There were heart problems with the use of these medications.
These drugs can have serious side effects. Hence, do not try any of the above drugs without a doctor’s prescription or approval. Many of these drugs are reserved for seriously ill patients and require medical supervision.