No current medicine can prevent or cure COVID-19, although researchers are testing and developing new therapeutic options. Some available medications can help alleviate mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, however.
A person who comes in contact with the novel coronavirus, abbreviated to SARS-CoV-2, may develop symptoms of the disease COVID-19.
- a fever
- a cough, which is usually dry
- shortness of breath
The WHO states that other symptoms can include:
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- in rarer cases, diarrhoea, nausea, or a runny nose
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly one in every six people with COVID-19, or 16.7%, develop a severe respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Older adults, or those 65 years of age and above, and people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, have a much higher risk of developing severe COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, not all SARS-CoV-2 infections cause symptoms, and around 80% of people recover from COVID-19 without specialized medical treatment.
Individuals caring for themselves or a loved one may want to consider the following list of currently available medications that may relieve mild COVID-19 symptoms.
This list also contains experimental antiviral drugs and other COVID-19 treatments that are currently still under development.
Acetaminophen, commonly marketed as Tylenol, belongs to a class of drugs called analgesics and antipyretics.
Analgesics help relieve mild to moderate pain from joint and muscle pain to headaches and sore throats.
Acetaminophen also acts as an antipyretic, or fever reducer by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme from producing inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins also act on the hypothalamus, the body’s central temperature regulation system. In response, the hypothalamus raises the temperature set point in the body, which would normally trigger fever.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and Advil, reduce fever, pain, and inflammation.
NSAIDs interfere with prostaglandin production, similarly to acetaminophen. However, NSAIDs also possess anti-inflammatory and anti-blood clotting effects.
In one study, researchers hypothesized that ibuprofen could increase the expression of an enzyme that facilitates SARS-CoV-2 infections. The enzyme is known as angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
According to the study authors, increased ACE2 expression could contribute to SARS-CoV-2 infections and increase the risk of developing severe symptoms.
However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and CDC all released similar statements, stating the contrary. They concurred that the current scientific data does not suggest an association between NSAID use and clinical COVID-19 outcomes.
Over-the-counter and prescription cough medications can help relieve persistent coughing and sore throat. Two different types of cough medication exist, which are known as expectorants and suppressants.
Expectorants, such as Robitussin and Mucinex, help thin and loosen mucus, making it easier to expel this from the lungs.
Cough suppressants, such as dextromethorphan and Delsym, inhibit the body’s cough reflex. While this type of medication may help treat a persistent dry cough, it cannot clear up congestion.
Antivirals refer to a group of prescription drugs that can reduce the intensity and duration of viral infections.
Antivirals target viruses in someone who already has an infection. Some antivirals prevent viruses from replicating, while others interfere with a virus’s ability to infect new host cells.
Companies and researchers around the world are currently testing existing antivirals or attempting to develop new ones against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Medications to help treat COVID-19 that are currently under consideration include the following:
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine
These drugs are oral medications that doctors use to treat malaria.
While the FDA have not approved either of these medications for treating COVID-19, they issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine on March 28, 2020.
The EUA grants doctors the ability to prescribe these medications to people with a laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection under the following conditions:
- the person is in the hospital due to severe COVID-19 symptoms
- the person weighs at least 50 kilograms
- the person cannot participate in a clinical trial
Also known as Avigan, the drug favipiravir is a broad-spectrum antiviral from Fujifilm Toyama Chemical.
Favipiravir appears especially effective against RNA viruses, such as influenza and rhinovirus. Evidence from clinical case studies suggests that favipiravir effectively prevents and treats Ebola virus infections.
A research team is currently investigating the safety and efficacy of favipiravir for treating moderate COVID-19 in a phase III clinical trial that began on March 25, 2020.
Remdesivir is a new broad spectrum antiviral from Gilead Sciences. Researchers and health authorities are currently evaluating the safety and efficacy of remdesivir for adults with moderate or severe COVID-19.
On February 21, 2020, a phase III clinical study began to investigate remdesivir in 440 people with COVID-19.
Convalescent plasma therapy treats infectious diseases. It involves transferring the plasma of a person who developed antibodies to a specific virus to an individual who has the same infection.
COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy is when healthcare professionals collect plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19, which contains antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Convalescent plasma therapy is not the same as treatment with a vaccine.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have selected two promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates from New Jersey-based Janssen Research & Development, part of Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The HHS will sponsor a nonclinical phase I trial of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, Ad26 SARS-CoV-2, in healthy, adult volunteers.
The HSS and Moderna are preparing for phase II and III clinical trials of the SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-1273 vaccine.
The HHS hope that these trials will lead to an emergency use COVID-19 vaccine by 2021.
It is also important to note that numerous other vaccines are also currently in development.
Over-the-counter and prescription medication can help alleviate mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.
Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs, can help lower fever, reduce inflammation, and relieve muscle aches. People who have difficulty clearing mucus from their lungs may benefit from using expectorant cough medication.
While the majority of people with COVID-19 report mild symptoms, individuals over 65 years of age, and those with underlying health conditions have an increased risk of developing severe respiratory complications.
Researchers and healthcare professionals around the world are working on testing or developing new therapeutic options for people with COVID-19.