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Medicines that have been investigated for COVID-19

This information is what we currently know about medicines that are being investigated for treating or preventing COVID-19. We will update this as new information becomes available.

COVID-19 vaccine [updated 12 May 14:00]

  • Vaccines are one of the ways to prevent infectious diseases. A vaccine helps the body’s immune system to recognise and fight germs such as viruses or bacteria.
  • There is currently no vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Scientists around the world are working on this, and some have started testing their vaccines in people.
  • These studies usually take at least 18 months to complete, so that we can be sure they are safe and effective.
  • There is no guarantee yet that these vaccines will work.
  • In the meantime, physical distancing and good handwashing technique help to prevent you getting COVID-19.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine1-4 [updated 8 Jun 16:00]

  • Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are used to treat and prevent malaria, and to treat inflammation conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The results from published trials so far show these medicines aren’t effective for treating or preventing COVID-19. They can also have serious side effects, especially when tried in high doses or with an antibiotic being used for COVID-19 called azithromycin.

Lopinavir with ritonavir1 [updated 21 Apr 15:00]

  • Lopinavir with ritonavir is used to control HIV (in combination with other medicines, not just on its own).
  • The results from a trial in China found it didn’t work for COVID-19, but it was a small trial which can mean the results might not be right. There are other trials happening to test this further.

Azithromycin1, 3, 5 [updated 8 Jun 16:00]

  • Azithromycin is used to treat infections caused by bacteria (not viruses).
  • The results from a published study using azithromycin with chloroquine show it isn’t effective for treating COVID-19. The chance of getting a serious heart rhythm problem is increased.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Ivermectin6 [updated 17 Apr 13:00]

  • Ivermectin is used to treat infections caused by certain types of worms, and for scabies infections that aren’t responding to usual treatments.
  • There are results from a study in cells (not in animals or in humans) that suggest it might be used to treat COVID-19. Results seen in cells do not always have the same effect when used in people.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Remdesivir7-11 [updated 30 Apr 15:00]

  • Remdesivir was created to try and treat the Ebola virus (which it doesn’t). It is not used for any other condition. In mice it has prevented and treated infections from other coronaviruses.
  • It has been used overseas in patients who are in hospital with COVID-19. Results from trials so far are mixed. One trial didn’t show benefit. Early results from another trial suggest it might help people recover from COVID-19 infection more quickly, but the full results are needed to assess this properly.
  • It is not currently available in New Zealand.

Oseltamivir1,12,13 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Oseltamivir is used to prevent and treat the influenza virus (‘the flu’).
  • Oseltamivir is highly specific for the influenza virus, so scientists don’t think it will have any activity against the coronavirus. Results from a few studies overseas found it didn’t work for COVID-19.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Darunavir1 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Darunavir is used in New Zealand for HIV (in combination with other medicines, not just on its own).
  • There is no evidence that it works for COVID-19, but there are trials underway overseas to test this.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Favilavir (also called favipiravir)1,14 [updated 26 May 14:30]

  • Favilavir is used overseas to treat some types of influenza virus.
  • A small study showed it might be helpful in treating COVID-19. More evidence is needed to confirm this, and there are trials underway overseas.
  • It is not currently available in New Zealand.

Galidesivir1 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Galidesivir is still in the experimental stages of being developed.
  • There is no evidence that it works for COVID-19.
  • It is not currently available in New Zealand.

Anakinra1,15 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Anakinra is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Some scientists think it could treat COVID-19 based on the way it works in the body. There are trials underway to test this.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Tocilizumab1,16,17 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Tocilizumab is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Some scientists think it could treat COVID-19 based on the way it works in the body. One small study in China found it might help some patients with COVID-19. There are more trials underway overseas to test this.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Nitazoxanide1 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Nitazoxanide is used to treat infections caused by parasites like giardia.
  • There is no evidence that it works for COVID-19, but some trials are underway overseas to test this.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Baricitinib1,17 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Baricitinib is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Some scientists think it could treat COVID-19 based on the way it works in the body. There is no evidence that it works for COVID-19, but some trials are underway overseas to test this.
  • It is not currently available in New Zealand.

High dose intravenous (IV) Vitamin C18,19 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Studies have used high doses of vitamin C given through a vein (intravenously) for other severe infections with similar symptoms to COVID-19. It didn’t show a clear benefit for patients.
  • It has been used in China for COVID-19. There are trials underway overseas to see if it works for COVID-19.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Interferons1 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • Interferons are used in New Zealand to treat multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancers and hepatitis.
  • Some scientists think they could treat COVID-19 based on the way they work in the body.
  • There is no evidence that they work for COVID-19, but trials are underway to test this.
  • They are not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Famotidine20 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • Famotidine is used to treat various stomach and gut problems, like ulcers and indigestion.
  • Some reports have suggested it may be helpful to treat COVID-19.
  • There is no evidence for this, but a trial is underway overseas to test it.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Tuberculosis (BCG) vaccine21 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • There are studies showing having a tuberculosis vaccine prevented other lung infections, (including the flu virus) especially in children and older people.
  • Some reports have suggested that having the tuberculosis vaccine could protect against COVID-19. There is no evidence for this, but some trials are underway overseas to test it.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.
  • Physical distancing and good handwashing technique help to prevent you getting COVID-19.

Acetylcysteine22 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • Acetylcysteine is mostly used in New Zealand to treat paracetamol overdoses. It is sometimes used to break up mucus in patients who have lung diseases like bronchitis and cystic fibrosis.
  • There is no evidence that it works for COVID-19, but some trials are underway overseas to test this.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Povidone-iodine mouthwash or nasal spray23,24 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • Povidone-iodine is used to treat or prevent skin infections.
  • Some reports have suggested it may be helpful to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • There is no evidence for this, but some trials are underway overseas to test it.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.

Enoxaparin25 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • People with COVID-19 seem to have a higher chance of developing blood clots, especially if they are very unwell.
  • Patients who are being treated in hospital for COVID-19 are likely to be given medicine to help prevent blood clots.
  • In New Zealand this will usually be Enoxaparin.
  • Enoxaparin doesn’t treat or prevent you getting the virus.

Paracetamol [updated 06 Apr 13:00]

  • Paracetamol treats pain and fever (high temperature). Fever is one of the main symptoms you get with COVID-19, so paracetamol is used to reduce the fever.
  • It doesn’t treat or prevent you getting the virus.
  • Only take paracetamol as directed by your health professional. Taking too much can cause liver damage.

Herbal products or supplements [updated 21 Apr 15:00]

  • There are many herbal products or supplements promoted to help prevent or treat COVID-19 and other conditions.
  • There is no evidence of any herbal products or supplements helping to prevent or treat COVID-19.
  • Physical distancing and good handwashing technique help to prevent you getting COVID-19.

Vitamin D26 [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Vitamin D is used to treat a lack of this vitamin in your body. It is used when a lab test confirms the amount is low, or in specific groups of people who are at risk of a low amount.
  • There is no evidence that taking a vitamin D supplement prevents COVID-19.
  • Physical distancing and good handwashing technique help to prevent you getting COVID-19.

Vitamin C [updated 29 Apr 16:00]

  • Vitamin C is used to treat and prevent a lack of this vitamin in your body (scurvy).
  • There is no evidence that taking a vitamin C supplement prevents or treats COVID-19.
  • Physical distancing and good handwashing technique help to prevent you getting COVID-19.

Zinc27 [updated 07 May 09:00]

  • Some reports have suggested that zinc may be helpful to prevent or treat COVID-19.
  • There is no evidence for this, but some trials are underway overseas to test it.
  • It is not currently used for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.
  • Physical distancing and good handwashing technique help to prevent you getting COVID-19.

References

  • [1] McCreary EK, Pogue JM. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Treatment: A Review of Early and Emerging Options. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020 Apr;7(4):ofaa105.
  • [2] Tang W, Cao Z, Han M, Wang Z, Chen J, Sun W, et al. Hydroxychloroquine in patients with mainly mild to moderate coronavirus disease 2019: open label, randomised controlled trial. BMJ [Internet]. 2020 May 14 [cited 2020 May 26];369. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1849
  • [3] Borba MGS, Val FFA, Sampaio VS, Alexandre MAA, Melo GC, Brito M, et al. Effect of High vs Low Doses of Chloroquine Diphosphate as Adjunctive Therapy for Patients Hospitalized With Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Infection: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Apr 1;3(4):e208857–e208857.
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  • [6] Caly L, Druce JD, Catton MG, Jans DA, Wagstaff KM. The FDA-approved Drug Ivermectin inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Antiviral Res. 2020 Apr 3;104787.
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  • [11] NIH clinical trial shows Remdesivir accelerates recovery from advanced COVID-19 [Internet]. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 2020 [cited 2020 May 6] Available from: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-shows-remdesivir-accelerates-recovery-advanced-covid-19
  • [12] Wang D, Hu B, Hu C, Zhu F, Liu X, Zhang J, et al. Clinical Characteristics of 138 Hospitalized Patients With 2019 Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. JAMA. 2020 Mar 17;323(11):1061–9.
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  • [14] Chen C, Zhang Y, Huang J, Yin P, Cheng Z, Wu J, et al. Favipiravir versus Arbidol for COVID-19: A Randomized Clinical Trial. medRxiv. 2020 Apr 15;2020.03.17.20037432.
  • [15] Mehta P, McAuley DF, Brown M, Sanchez E, Tattersall RS, Manson JJ, et al. COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression. Lancet. 2020 28;395(10229):1033–4.
  • [16] Luo P, Liu Y, Qiu L, Liu X, Liu D, Li J. Tocilizumab treatment in COVID-19: A single center experience. J Med Virol. 2020;1–5.
  • [17] Favalli EG, Biggioggero M, Maioli G, Caporali R. Baricitinib for COVID-19: a suitable treatment? Lancet Infect Dis [Internet]. 2020 Apr 3 [cited 2020 Apr 29]; Available from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30262-0/abstract
  • [18] Fowler AA, Truwit JD, Hite RD, Morris PE, DeWilde C, Priday A, et al. Effect of Vitamin C Infusion on Organ Failure and Biomarkers of Inflammation and Vascular Injury in Patients With Sepsis and Severe Acute Respiratory Failure: The CITRIS-ALI Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019 01;322(13):1261–70.
  • [19] Fujii T, Luethi N, Young PJ, Frei DR, Eastwood GM, French CJ, et al. Effect of Vitamin C, Hydrocortisone, and Thiamine vs Hydrocortisone Alone on Time Alive and Free of Vasopressor Support Among Patients With Septic Shock: The VITAMINS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2020 Jan 17;323:423–31.
  • [20] Borrell B, 2020, Pm 12:00. New York clinical trial quietly tests heartburn remedy against coronavirus [Internet]. Science | AAAS. 2020 [cited 2020 May 6]. Available from: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/new-york-clinical-trial-quietly-tests-heartburn-remedy-against-coronavirus
  • [21] Does BCG vaccination protect against acute respiratory infections and COVID-19? A rapid review of current evidence [Internet]. CEBM. [cited 2020 May 6]. Available from: https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/does-bcg-vaccination-protect-against-acute-respiratory-infections-and-covid-19-a-rapid-review-of-current-evidence/
  • [22] N-acetylcysteine: A rapid review of the evidence for effectiveness in treating COVID-19 [Internet]. CEBM. [cited 2020 Apr 29]. Available from: https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/n-acetylcysteine-a-rapid-review-of-the-evidence-for-effectiveness-in-treating-covid-19/
  • [23] Kirk-Bayley J, Combes J, Sunkaraneni S, Challacombe S. The Use of Povidone Iodine Nasal Spray and Mouthwash During the Current COVID-19 Pandemic May Reduce Cross Infection and Protect Healthcare Workers [Internet]. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network; 2020 Mar [cited 2020 May 6]. Report No.: ID 3563092. Available from: https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=3563092
  • [24] Mady LJ, Kubik MW, Baddour K, Snyderman CH, Rowan NR. Consideration of povidone-iodine as a public health intervention for COVID-19: Utilization as “Personal Protective Equipment” for frontline providers exposed in high-risk head and neck and skull base oncology care. Oral Oncol [Internet]. 2020 Apr 16 [cited 2020 May 6]; Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7161480/
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  • [26] WHO | Vitamin D for prevention of respiratory tract infections [Internet]. WHO. World Health Organization; [cited 2020 May 6]. Available from: http://www.who.int/elena/titles/commentary/vitamind_pneumonia_children/en/
  • [27] Moseley HNB. Current Evidence Supporting the Use of Orally Administered Zinc in the Treatment of COVID-19 [Internet]. Open Science Framework; 2020 Apr [cited 2020 Apr 29]. Available from: https://osf.io/z8wvq

About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at the Canterbury District Health Board. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed