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Antiviral Drugs That Are Approved or Under Evaluation for the Treatment of COVID-19

Last Updated: July 8, 2021

Summary Recommendations
Summary Recommendations

Remdesivir is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for the treatment of COVID-19. In this section, the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel (the Panel) provides recommendations for using antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19 based on the available data. As in the management of any disease, treatment decisions ultimately reside with the patient and their health care provider. For more information on these antiviral agents, see Table 2e.

Remdesivir

Ivermectin

  • There is insufficient evidence for the Panel to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. Results from adequately powered, well-designed, and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.

Nitazoxanide

  • The Panel recommends against the use of nitazoxanide for the treatment of COVID-19, except in a clinical trial (BIIa).

Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine and/or Azithromycin

  • The Panel recommends against the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine and/or azithromycin for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients (AI) and in nonhospitalized patients (AIIa).

Lopinavir/Ritonavir and Other HIV Protease Inhibitors

  • The Panel recommends against the use of lopinavir/ritonavir and other HIV protease inhibitors for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients (AI) and in nonhospitalized patients (AIII).
Rating of Recommendations: A = Strong; B = Moderate; C = Optional
Rating of Evidence: I = One or more randomized trials without major limitations; IIa = Other randomized trials or subgroup analyses of randomized trials; IIb = Nonrandomized trials or observational cohort studies; III = Expert opinion 

Antiviral Therapy

Because SARS-CoV-2 replication leads to many of the clinical manifestations of COVID-19, antiviral therapies are being investigated for the treatment of COVID-19. These drugs inhibit viral entry (via the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 [ACE2] receptor and transmembrane serine protease 2 [TMPRSS2]), viral membrane fusion and endocytosis, or the activity of the SARS-CoV-2 3-chymotrypsin-like protease (3CLpro) and the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase.1 Because viral replication may be particularly active early in the course of COVID-19, antiviral therapy may have the greatest impact before the illness progresses to the hyperinflammatory state that can characterize the later stages of disease, including critical illness.2 For this reason, it is necessary to understand the role of antiviral medications in treating mild, moderate, severe, and critical illness in order to optimize treatment for people with COVID-19.

The following sections describe the underlying rationale for using different antiviral medications, provide the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel’s recommendations for using these medications to treat COVID-19, and summarize the existing clinical trial data. Additional antiviral therapies will be added to this section of the Guidelines as new evidence emerges.

  1. Sanders JM, Monogue ML, Jodlowski TZ, Cutrell JB. Pharmacologic treatments for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): a review. JAMA. 2020;323(18):1824-1836. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32282022.
  2. Siddiqi HK, Mehra MR. COVID-19 illness in native and immunosuppressed states: a clinical-therapeutic staging proposal. J Heart Lung Transplant. 2020;39(5):405-407. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32362390.