While most people who get COVID-19 are able to recover at home, the rush is on to find a treatment that’s safe and effective against serious, life-threatening cases of the disease.
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Right now, hospitals can offer supportive care for people who get severely sick with COVID-19. This means giving them oxygen to help them breathe and treating some of the symptoms or complications that COVID-19 causes. But there’s no drug that’s known to target the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, or the body’s response to that virus.
However, experts in laboratories and hospitals across the world are working on this, says infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD. Hundreds of studies are exploring whether different medications can help people with COVID-19.
Drugs in the headlines
While social media is ripe with rumors about miracle treatments, you should know that nothing is currently FDA approved as safe and effective for preventing or treating COVID-19.
Here’s a look at some of the drugs you might be hearing about:
- Remdesivir: The FDA is allowing hospitals to give this antiviral medication to patients who are severely sick with COVID-19, even though it has not yet been FDA approved for this purpose. The agency made this decision based on early research showing that the drug might help speed up recovery for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. More trials are underway.
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine: These drugs are used to treat malaria and some autoimmune disorders. They’re currently being tested to see if they could be effective against COVID-19, but evidence so far is limited. There’s also no evidence that they should be used to prevent COVID-19. In fact, there are strong warnings from the FDA against this use because of serious safety risks, Dr. Englund says.
- Ciclesonide (Alvesco): As of now, there isn’t high-quality evidence showing that this asthma treatment is effective in people with COVID-19. But clinical trials are testing whether it could help in mild cases.
- Acetazolamide: There’s currently no scientific evidence showing that this drug used for altitude sickness and other conditions is effective against COVID-19.
- N-acetylcysteine: While this drug is used to treat other respiratory diseases, there isn’t evidence that it’s effective in treating COVID-19.
- Ivermectin: This drug used to treat parasite infections showed promise against coronavirus in lab studies, but there are currently not clinical trials showing that it’s effective in humans with COVID-19.
- Arbidol: There isn’t high-quality evidence that this antiviral medicine used to treat the flu is effective against COVID-19.
- Cetylpyridinium chloride: While this germ-killing ingredient is found in some mouthwashes and other dental hygiene products, there are currently no studies showing that it could prevent or treat COVID-19.
- Clofazimine: There are no studies showing that it’s effective against the 2019 novel coronavirus.
- Favipiravir: Though this antiviral medicine is approved in China and Japan to treat influenza, there’s so far not any high-quality evidence showing that it works against COVID-19. It’s being studied in a number of clinical trials.
- Guaifenesin (Mucinex): Some doctors may recommend this over-the-counter cough medicine to help with mild symptoms of COVID-19, but it won’t do anything to treat the underlying virus.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics work against bacterial infections, not viral infections like COVID-19. There’s no evidence to support any claims that taking antibiotics or rubbing topical versions of them (such as Neosporin) in your nose will prevent or treat COVID-19.
- Prazosin: Prazosin is a drug used to treat high blood pressure. There’s currently no evidence that it’s effective in treating COVID-19 patients.