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Treatments

There are some treatments available for COVID-19 as well as highly effective vaccines which remain the best way to prevent serious illness.

Last updated: May 25, 2022


Treatments

B.C. is using two approved treatments for people who have mild to moderate symptoms who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19: Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) and Remdesivir (Veklury). These treatments help prevent symptoms from getting worse and work best when given to people shortly after their symptoms start.

One medication, Evusheld (tixagevimab + cilgavimab), is also available to help prevent COVID-19 illness on a case-by-case basis for adults and children 12 years and older who are at an extremely high risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.

How to access treatment if you have COVID-19 symptoms

Patients who are high risk and have symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested, either by PCR test or a rapid antigen test. Use the self-assessment tool to determine if you should be tested.

To find out if you may benefit from treatment and how to get the treatment, visit gov.bc.ca/covidtreatments or call Service BC for assistance: 1-888-COVID-19 (1-888-268-4319) (7:30 am to 8 pm).
Check if you may benefit from treatment

Most people with COVID-19 will recover on their own. Learn more about managing your COVID-19 symptoms at home.

If you have one or more of the following moderate to severe symptoms you should immediately call 911 or go to the emergency department:
  • Severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, can only speak single words)
  • Severe chest pain (constant tightness or crushing sensation)
  • Feeling confused or unsure of where you are
  • Losing consciousness

Paxlovid

Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) is the first oral antiviral (pill) to treat COVID-19.  This medication is a treatment for people who are not in hospital. 

Paxlovid is for those who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and who are higher risk of serious illness and hospitalization. This treatment helps prevent symptoms from getting worse. It does not prevent people from getting COVID-19 before or after an exposure.

Health Canada approved Paxlovid on January 17, 2022. It is a set of two medicines (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) taken by mouth to treat COVID-19.  This is the first oral and at-home prescription medication to be approved for use in Canada for COVID-19. 

Paxlovid can be used to treat adults 18 years and older. 

Treatment must begin within 5 days of start of symptoms to be effective.

Handouts and additional information

Remdesivir

Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine that can be used to treat adults 18 years and older. It is given within 7 days of symptom onset to prevent symptoms from getting worse. It does not prevent people from getting COVID-19 before or after an exposure. Remdesivir is also approved for people who are in hospital with severe COVID-19 to help shorten the duration of COVID-19 symptoms.

Remdesivir is given at a hospital or clinic setting by a healthcare professional intravenously (through a vein). You will need to go to the hospital or clinic each day for 3 days to get the medication. Each visit takes at least 45 minutes.

Handouts and additional information

Evulsheld

Evusheld is a medicine that provides additional immunity (antibodies) to help prevent COVID-19. It can be used on a case-by-case basis in adults and children 12 years and older (weighing at least 40 kg).

Evusheld use is limited to people who are:
  • Severely immunocompromised
  • AND who have no known cardiovascular disease
  • AND who have additional risk factors or exceptional circumstances that put them at an extremely high risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19
To find out if you would benefit from Evusheld, talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner or specialist.

Evusheld is not used to treat COVID-19 infection or prevent infection in people who have been exposed to the virus.  People who have tested positive for COVID-19 should wait until they are fully recovered before receiving Evusheld.

Handouts and additional information

Other treatments

Sotrovimab

Sotrovimab is an approved medication that is not widely used in B.C. It has been found that other treatments may be more effective at treating the virus that is the BA.2 Omicron variant of COVID-19. BA.2 is the dominant variant in B.C. 

Sotrovimab may still be used in some cases and likely has some effect; however, Paxlovid and Remdesivir are preferred.

If you received Sotrovimab treatment, you can refer to the handout: Patient Information about sotrovimab

Treatments available for people in hospital

There are also specific treatments available for hospitalized COVID-19 patients: Dexamethasone, Tocilizumab, Baricitinib, anticoagulation and longer courses of Remdesivir. In addition, many clinical trials are currently underway, including in British Columbia – ask your doctor if any clinical trials are available in your area. To learn more, visit Health Canada’s Clinical Trials List.

Ivermectin and COVID-19

Ivermectin (veterinary or human versions) is an antiparasitic drug that has not been authorized for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Using this product, especially the veterinary version intended for animals, may cause serious health problems. 

Health Canada is advising Canadians not to use either the veterinary or human drug versions of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19. There is no evidence that ivermectin in either formulation is safe or effective when used for those purposes.

The veterinary version of ivermectin, especially at high doses, can be dangerous for humans and may cause serious health problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, seizures, coma and even death. Ivermectin products for animals have a higher concentrated dose than ivermectin products for people.

Read the Health Canada warning.

Recovering from COVID-19

Most people with COVID-19 recover within two weeks. Some people experience more severe illness from COVID-19 and take longer to recover. The Post COVID-19 Interdisciplinary Clinical Care Network provides resources specific to COVID-19 recovery and symptom management.


PHSA's Post COVID-19 Interdisciplinary Clinical Care Network aims to support patients experiencing post-COVID symptoms and their health-care providers. It provides resources specific to COVID-19 recovery and symptom management and clinics where you can access care. 



Frequently asked questions about treatments

No. The influenza (flu) vaccine does not protect against COVID-19. However, it is important to get your influenza vaccine to help prevent influenza as seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses will be co-circulating alongside COVID-19 this fall and winter. 


Please visit our Prevention and risks page to find ways to protect yourself against COVID-19.

No. There is currently no medication that is effective for preventing COVID-19. Tamiflu is used to treat and prevent influenza A and influenza B (flu). Coronaviruses like COVID-19 belong to a different family of viruses. There is no evidence that Tamiflu is effective against coronaviruses.

 

No. Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections, not viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Do not take antibiotics to prevent or treat COVID-19. Learn more about antibiotics at www.antibioticwise.ca.

 

While some home remedies may help with symptoms, there is no evidence that they can prevent or treat COVID-19.

 

Studies have shown that steroids like dexamethasone (sometimes used for arthritis and other illnesses) and hydrocortisone may help reduce the chance of dying from COVID-19 in very ill COVID-19 patients who need oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation. If someone who is sick with COVID-19 also has asthma or chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), they may receive steroids to help treat those conditions.

 

No. Some initial studies suggested an effect in a test tube only. In human clinical trials, hydroxycholoquine has been clearly shown to NOT be effective in treating COVID-19.  Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not recommended for the treatment of COVID-19 except in a clinical trial.

 

Lopinavir/Ritonavir (LPV/r) has been shown to NOT be effective in treating COVID-19.  Lopinavir/Ritonavir (LPV/r) are not recommended for the treatment of COVID-19.

 

No. There is no evidence that taking Vitamin C will help prevent infection with COVID-19. Health Canada says a daily intake of 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women is enough. You should not take more than 200 mg as it can cause side effects including diarrhea and nausea.

 
No. You should not stop taking them because of COVID-19. The Canadian Cardiovascular Society, Hypertension Canada and the American Heart Association all recommend that patients should continue these drugs for managing heart disease or hypertension. 



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