COVID-19 treatments for hospitalized patients

While most people with COVID-19 will be able to recover at home, people who become moderately or severely ill may need emergency care at a hospital. If you have any emergency warning signs or other COVID-19 symptoms that are concerning to you, call 911 or call your local emergency facility for guidance.

Treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients vary according to each individual's medical history, risks, and symptoms. Below are treatment options that health care providers could use to treat a hospitalized patient.

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Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone and other corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone) are potent anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs help patients who have developed a hyper-immune response to COVID-19.

The National Institute of Health COVID-19 treatment guidelines recommend the use of dexamethasone in certain people hospitalized with severe COVID-19, particularly those who need supplemental oxygen.

Tocilizumab

Tocilizumab (Actemra) is a monoclonal antibody that is already FDA-approved to treat several autoimmune diseases. Tocilizumab dampens an exaggerated immune system response to a viral infection.

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for tocilizumab for hospitalized patients ages 2 years and older who are receiving systemic corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, and who require supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation, or a heart-lung bypass machine, also known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

Remdesivir

Remdesivir (Veklury) is an antiviral drug that stops the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading in the body. The FDA approved remdesivir to treat COVID-19 in October 2020. The drug may be used to treat patients ages 12 and older and weighing at least 88 pounds, who have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Clinical trials suggest that in these patients, remdesivir may modestly speed up recovery time.

Baricitinib or tofacitinib in combination with remdesivir

Baricitinib (Olumiant) and tofacitinib (Xeljanz) are Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that reduce inflammation. The drugs are already FDA-approved to treat moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis. The FDA issued an EUA for the use of baricitinib or tofacitinib in combination with remdesivir in November 2020.

The drugs can be used with remdesivir in hospitalized patients two years and older who require respiratory support. However, there is not yet enough evidence to support the use of this therapy instead of dexamethasone with or without remdesivir.

Anticoagulation drugs ("blood thinners")

Some people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and many other conditions receive medications to help prevent blood clots. Doctors usually prescribe a low dose of heparin or enoxaparin, but some patients require full doses of anticoagulants if they already have developed blood clots or have a high risk of doing so. Anticoagulants are not recommended for the treatment of COIVD-19 or for the prevention of clots due to COVID-19 in patients who are not admitted to the hospital.

Outpatient (at-home) treatments

Learn more about at-home treatments for COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies

The FDA has authorized the use of three kinds of monoclonal antibodies for non-hospitalized patients at high risk of severe disease. If given within 10 days of the first symptoms, they can help prevent severe illness and hospitalization for patients whose immune systems might not produce enough natural antibodies.

Other treatments

Researchers continue to explore new COVID-19 treatments and study existing drugs that are already approved for other health conditions as possible treatments for COVID-19. When more is known about the safety and effectiveness of certain treatments, recommendations for how and whether to use them are updated.

The FDA continues to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of hundreds of potential COVID-19 treatments. As new data emerges, recommendations will change.

Alaska Hospitalization Data

Information about COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alaska can be found in a monthly update (PDF) published by the Section of Epidemiology or on our hospital dashboard.

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