Medications to Prevent or Treat Serious COVID-19 Cases

Published: February 15, 2021
Revised: August 30, 2022
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

For people who test positive for the virus and are at higher risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19, medications are available to reduce the severity of the illness, time to recovery, and the possibility of death.


Are there medications to stop a mild to moderate COVID-19 infection from becoming severe in people at risk?
Yes, there are two types of medications that can treat mild to moderate COVID-19.


  • Antiviral medications target parts of the virus to stop it from multiplying, lowering the amount of virus in your body.
  • Monoclonal antibodies help your immune system recognize and respond effectively to the virus.

Who is most at risk of getting serious complications from COVID-19?
Although anyone can become very sick with COVID-19, examples of individuals most at risk of serious disease include:


  • Older adults aged 50 or older
  • Unvaccinated people
  • Those with conditions such as kidney, liver, or heart disease, or diabetes
  • Individuals with a weakened immune system or taking immunosuppressive medications
  • Obese individuals
  • Pregnant people

If I test positive for COVID-19, what are my options for treatment?
Based on your health condition and age, your doctor or pharmacist may suggest treatment with an antiviral medication. There are several options:


  • Molnupiravir (Lagevrio): Can be taken by mouth. Start this medication within five days of when your symptoms begin. Molnupiravir may cause harm to unborn children and is not recommended for use in pregnant women.  
  • Remdesivir (Veklury): Injectable medication given every day for three days at a healthcare facility. Must be started within 7 days of when your symptoms begin.


Monoclonal antibodies are another option if you test positive for COVID-19. There are several products available, but because the COVID-19 virus changes over time, it is important to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment that will work for the current variant of the virus. Monoclonal antibodies are given by injection at a healthcare facility.


Are there medications to treat severe illness associated with COVID-19?
If your mild symptoms of COVID-19 illness worsen, contact your healthcare provider. Patients with serious illness due to COVID-19 will need to go to a hospital to receive care. They will be monitored closely and may receive oxygen or other treatments to help them breathe easier, in addition to medications to help fight the virus.


Other than vaccines, are there any medications to prevent you from getting COVID-19?
A monoclonal antibody combination, tixagevimab plus cilgavimab (Evusheld) is available for adults and children 12 years of age and older to help prevent infection with the virus in those who are severely allergic to COVID vaccines or are immunocompromised. This medication is given in two doses as an injection into a muscle at a doctor’s office or healthcare facility. Talk to your doctor to see if this treatment is right for you.


Researchers are continuing to study the most effective treatments for COVID-19. The best strategy to avoid becoming infected is to receive a COVID-19 vaccine series and any recommended booster doses. Additional treatments are available to prevent a mild or moderate case of COVID-19 infection from worsening.


Related content:

Should I Take Paxlovid After a Positive COVID-19 Test?

Pharmacists Explain: Should You Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot or Additional Dose?

What To Do if You Have Fever/Body Aches and COVID-19


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