Pepcid AC, or famotidine, is a drug for treating gastrointestinal conditions. Limited studies suggest famotidine may also improve some COVID-19 symptoms, but guidelines do not recommend its use.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a highly infectious betacoronavirus that emerged in December 2019. The disease that SARS-CoV-2 causes, known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), resulted in a global pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 3.3 million people globally have died as a result of the pandemic, and there are still unreported deaths.

Although many people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms, some people develop serious symptoms that require treatment and hospitalization.

Researchers are trying to devise several treatment options to curb the pandemic. Pepcid, which has the generic name famotidine, is a competitive histamine H-receptor antagonist (H2RA) that can treat gastrointestinal conditions.

Recent studies indicate that famotidine may be beneficial in relieving COVID-19 symptoms, although further research is necessary.

This article discusses what Pepcid is and how it may help with COVID-19 symptoms. It will also explore other treatment approaches and prevention strategies for COVID-19.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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Pepcid, which has the generic name famotidine, is an H2RA that is a common treatment for acid-related gastrointestinal conditions.

The manufacturer of Pepcid did not intend for it to be used in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 and its symptoms. Research on Pepcid and COVID-19 involves famotidine, the generic name for Pepcid.

Previous studies suggested that famotidine could relieve COVID-19 symptoms by binding to SARS-CoV-2 enzymes and preventing the virus from replicating. However, more recent research indicates that famotidine does not directly inhibit viral replication or bind to viral enzymes.

Famotidine may help relieve COVID-19 symptoms by acting on host pathways associated with the viral infection. It binds to the histamine H2 receptor that is present not only in the stomach but also in mast cells.

Dysregulation of mast cells occurs in severe COVID-19 that results in the release of proinflammatory proteins, leading to issues such as lung damage. Famotidine can antagonize the expression of H2 receptors in mast cells and reduce the release of certain proteins in the body and inflammation.

Read more about COVID-19 treatments.

Pepcid and inflammation in the body

Pepcid can also inhibit histamine-induced expression of toll-like receptor 3, which induces the body’s response to viral infections.

Additionally, it reduces the expression of the inflammatory mediators CCL and IL-6, which are also responsible for the release of cytokines — molecules that allow communication between cells. Thereby, Pepcid may improve COVID-19 symptoms by reducing histamine-induced cytokine release and inflammation.

COVID-19 can result in a variety of clinical symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. The symptoms may take 2–14 days to fully develop after exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

Common symptoms include:

Severe symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, and confusion might require hospitalization.

Studies on taking Pepcid for COVID-19

Several studies report that famotidine — the generic term for Pepcid — can have a beneficial role in managing COVID-19 symptoms.

Studies on hospitalized people

A 2020 study indicates that oral or intravenous (IV) administration of 20 milligrams (mg) or 40 mg of famotidine can reduce the risk of death or intubation for people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Studies on non-hospitalized people

A 2022 study indicates that taking 80 mg of oral famotidine three times per day can reduce COVID-19 symptoms in people with mild or moderate disease. It is important to remember, however, that 80 mg three times per day is six times higher than the max daily dose of 40 mg. A person should always consult their doctor before beginning a high dose regimen.

Further studies showing no or minimal benefit

Not all studies on famotidine have shown benefits in reducing COVID-19 symptoms. A 2021 study compared famotidine with other classes of drugs for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), such as proton pump inhibitors, and found no difference in outcomes on reducing COVID-19 symptoms.

The use of famotidine for COVID-19 is not advisable until further research is available.

Visit our COVID-19 hub for more information.

Pepcid, which has the generic name famotidine, commonly helps treat gastrointestinal disorders. People may use it to:

  • reduce the secretion of stomach acids in GERD and peptic ulcers
  • treat and prevent heartburn due to gastroesophageal reflux
  • treat frequent hives — an off-label use
  • prevent stress ulcers in critically ill people

It is important that people consult a doctor before considering taking famotidine. This will help ensure the correct dosage and method of administration.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized famotidine for the treatment of gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers, and GERD in both children and adults. This medication is available over the counter and by prescription.

People can take famotidine in several forms:

  • tablets
  • oral suspension
  • IV solution

It is important that people consult a doctor before taking famotidine so that they understand the correct dose and method of administration for them.

Read more about famotidine.

The FDA has authorized a few antiviral medications and monoclonal antibodies for people who are more vulnerable to developing severe disease.

Antiviral medications help target different parts of the virus and inhibit its replication, while monoclonal antibodies help the immune system respond more effectively to the virus.

A few of the available treatment options are:

  • Nirmatrelvir with ritonavir (Paxlovid): People can take this combination of antiviral medications orally at home. People must take it within 5 days of symptom onset.
  • Remdesivir (Veklury): Healthcare professionals can administer this antiviral medication through IV infusions at a healthcare facility for 3 consecutive days within 7 days of symptom onset.
  • Molnupiravir (Lagevrio): This is an antiviral medication a person can take orally at home within 5 days of symptom onset.

How to relieve symptoms of COVID-19

Approaches that can help relieve symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen in case of fever or discomfort
  • sitting upright in a chair in case of breathlessness
  • eating a healthy and nutrient-rich diet
  • taking vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc supplements
  • taking probiotics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list several measures to help prevent COVID-19, including:

  • isolating after close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • wearing well-fitting masks in public places
  • covering the nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing
  • washing the hands with soap and water after coughing or sneezing, before eating or preparing food, and after using the washroom
  • using alcohol-based sanitizers if soap and water are not available
  • cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces regularly
  • improving ventilation at home

Read our tips on reducing the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has led to millions of infections and deaths throughout the world. Many clinical trials are still underway with the goal of developing effective vaccines and antiviral drugs. Health experts have repurposed several drugs to treat COVID-19.

Famotidine is one such drug and originally helped treat gastrointestinal disorders. Several studies indicate that it can help relieve COVID-19 symptoms in people with mild and moderate cases of the disease.

It does so by reducing histamine-related cytokine releases and inflammation. However, it is important that people consult their doctors before taking famotidine and that they follow preventive steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.