How is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treated?

Updated: Jun 25, 2021
  • Author: David J Cennimo, MD, FAAP, FACP, FIDSA, AAHIVS; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Utilization of programs established by the FDA to allow clinicians to gain access to investigational therapies during the pandemic has been essential. The expanded access (EA) and emergency use authorization (EUA) programs allowed for rapid deployment of potential therapies for investigation and investigational therapies with emerging evidence. A review by Rizk et al describes the role for each of these measures and their importance to providing medical countermeasures in the event of infectious disease and other threats. [20]

As of October 22, 2020, remdesivir, an antiviral agent, is the only drug approved for treatment of COVID-19. It is indicated for treatment of COVID-19 disease in hospitalized adults and children aged 12 years and older who weigh at least 40 kg. [21] An emergency use authorization (EUA) remains in place for treat pediatric patients weighing 3.5 kg to less than 40 kg or children younger than 12 years who weigh at least 3.5 kg. [22] Further data on remdesivir suggest that it shortens the time to recovery in hospitalized adults. [153]

EUAs have been issued for vaccines, monoclonal-directed antibodies, convalescent plasma, baricitinib (a Janus kinase inhibitor), and tocilizumab (an interleukin-6 inhibitor) in the United States. A full list of EUAs and access to the Fact Sheets for Healthcare Providers is available from the FDA. 

 Use of corticosteroids improve survival in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 disease requiring supplemental oxygen, with the greatest benefit shown in those requiring mechanical ventilation. [23]

Information, including allocation, for COVID-19 therapies granted emergency use authorization is located at the United States Public Health Emergency webpage. 

In addition, infected patients should receive supportive care to help alleviate symptoms. Vital organ function should be supported in severe cases. [129]

Numerous collaborative efforts to discover and evaluate effectiveness of antivirals, immunotherapies, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines have rapidly emerged. Guidelines and reviews of pharmacotherapy for COVID-19 have been published. [24, 25, 26, 27] 33 The Milken Institute maintains a detailed COVID-19 Treatment and Vaccine Tracker of research and development progress.

For more information on investigational drugs and biologics being evaluated for COVID-19, see Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Investigational Drugs and Other Therapies

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