Medications and Treatments for COVID-19
BY KATIE CAVENDER
Remdesivir is officially the first antiviral medication to be approved for treatment of COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug at the end of October. And with this news, there have been a lot of questions about COVID-19 prevention and treatment – what works and what doesn’t. We sat down with Alex Benjamin, MD, with LVPG Infectious Diseases and Chief Infection Control and Prevention Officer at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), to talk about some common questions.
How does the approval of remdesivir impact patients?
LVHN hospitals participated in the clinical trial for remdesivir, so not much will change for our patients. While the drug was in the clinical trial, we had to ask the manufacturer (Gilead) for approval to administer the treatment before offering it to any patient. Now, all hospitals have the ability to determine who should receive the treatment without seeking approval from the manufacturer.
Can over-the-counter supplements help prevent or treat COVID-19?
No over-the-counter supplement has been clinically evaluated and determined to be protective or able to decrease the chance of complications from COVID-19. However, having good health before coming in contact with the virus is important. Vitamin D is known to decrease inflammation, and zinc can help your immune system fight viruses. These supplements could be beneficial, but we don’t have clinical evidence of that yet. It’s important to not miss your annual physical exams with a primary care provider. Your provider will be able to give you guidance based on your health needs.
Also, remember to keep up the COVID-19 safety measures you already know: Wash your hands often, wear a mask, social distance and stay home if you feel sick.
Will aspirin prevent COVID-19-related blood clots?
I do not believe there is enough data at this point to say that aspirin would prevent COVID-19-related thrombosis (clotting).
What medications should I take if I have COVID-19 symptoms?
If you are feeling ill, start with a virtual care option such as an LVHN Video Visit or E-Visit accessed through the patient portal, MyLVHN. COVID-19 symptoms can appear to be flu symptoms or even allergy symptoms, so we recommend that people start with a virtual visit. Not only is it convenient, virtual care helps reduce the chance of spreading viruses to others. A provider will let you know if a COVID-19 test is required and next steps.
If you receive a positive COVID-19 test, over-the-counter medications may help you treat your symptoms – including sore throat, upset stomach, headache and chest tightness.
What treatments are used in the hospital, and who is eligible to receive them?
In addition to remdesivir, patients can receive treatments through LVHN participation in clinical studies. These trials allow patients to access treatments that they might not otherwise have access to. Although these treatments are still being evaluated, they are available to anyone who needs them through what’s known as ‘compassionate use.’ Compassionate use allows people who have a life-threatening disease or condition to gain access to an investigational medical treatment.
Dexamethasone – Dexamethasone is a steroid or an anti-inflammatory drug that can be given intravenously or orally. It helps to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on the lungs and the body. Dexamethasone has been clinically shown to reduce mortality from COVID-19.
Convalescent plasma – When people contract a virus like COVID-19, their immune system creates antibodies to fight the virus. Those who have completely recovered from COVID-19 may have immune-boosting antibodies in their plasma – called ‘convalescent plasma’– that could be used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. This provides a boost to the immune system of the sick patient and may help speed the recovery process.
Selinexor – Selinexor is currently approved at higher doses by the FDA as a treatment for patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma (cancer of white blood cells). Selinexor is what’s known as a selective inhibitor of nuclear transport, or SINE, in cells. It’s been shown that COVID-19’s ability to replicate is impaired when nuclear transport is blocked. Animal models suggest some significant reduction in viral replication.
If you are experiencing symptoms that may be contagious, call the LVHN Nurse Hotline at 888-402-LVHN for next steps.