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Because this coronavirus is still so new, there are limited data on therapies to treat COVID-19. Right now, the focus of treatment is to:

  • Control the infection
  • Calm an exaggerated immune response
  • Manage symptoms and complications, for example using medication (to lower fevers), oxygen therapy or ventilator support
  • Isolate potentially infected people so the virus doesn’t spread to others

One way to speed the process is to test drugs that are currently used to treat other diseases to see if they are safe and work to treat COVID-19. That way, researchers can build on existing safety and dosing information.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the antiviral agent remdesivir to treat COVID-19 in the U.S. It is being used in people with COVID-19 who are hospitalized and need supplemental oxygen. Clinical trials are still underway to determine what situations would benefit from using the medication. Remdesivir was originally developed to treat Ebola. Other antiviral treatments also are in development and being tested.

Anti-inflammatory steroids, such as dexamethasone, may be used in patients with COVID-19 who are in the hospital and need supplemental oxygen or are on ventilator support. In a United United Kingdom clinical trial, dexamethasone was shown to decrease deaths in these types of patients.

The FDA also has granted emergency use authorization for some monoclonal antibodies to treat people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 to help them avoid having to be hospitalized. It’s important for this medication to be given early in the course of the disease when someone has only mild symptoms.

More clinical trials are underway to test different treatments. Cardiologists are involved in these trials as well to make sure that treatments for COVID-19 do not interfere with the medications that people with heart conditions commonly take. They also want to be sure that these treatments don’t harm the heart (for example, to be sure they don’t trigger dangerous heartbeats). 

For the latest updates on treatment for COVID-19, visit NIH’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines.

  • Last Edited 03/26/2021