COVID-19 is scary — especially if you or a loved one ends up in the hospital or ICU. Now that we’re almost two years into the pandemic, medical experts have learned which treatments work well and which ones don’t.
Doctors facing the pandemic say they have seen some strongly effective treatments come to the forefront.
“The research has been constant. Some treatments that showed promise earlier didn’t end up working as we had hoped. And then there are ‘solutions’ touted on social media that aren’t helpful at all, and in fact, harmful,” Dr. David Basel, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group, said.
One example of an ineffective and even dangerous treatment is ivermectin, which is not approved by the FDA for treating COVID-19.
“People have ended up in the hospital because they’ve misused this drug, and tried self-medicating themselves for COVID.”
There are different forms of ivermectin — for both animals and humans.
Animal formulations are intended to pour on, inject, paste or drench to treat or prevent parasites. For humans, ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses to treat some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.
“At this time, we cannot treat patients with ivermectin for COVID at our hospitals and clinics. We can’t use a drug for a given dose and purpose unless it’s approved by the FDA, or unless we’re taking part in a clinical trial,” Basel said. “Yet we have had patients and families request this and it’s sometimes difficult to help them understand. We have to take the course that’s scientifically proven to be the safest and most effective for patients.”
Although research continues, there’s still no cure for COVID. “People are still dying and that’s very sad and frustrating. Yet we as medical professionals are not able to turn to unproven treatments,” Basel said. “Avera will continue to evolve our medical practices to mirror the clinical evidence.”
New oral antivirals have recently been approved to fight COVID. These are therapies that high-risk individuals can take at home soon after developing symptoms to keep COVID from getting worse and to help prevent hospitalizations.
Not Proven to Work
Ivermectin: A drug used to treat parasites and other conditions in both animals and humans – but not COVID.
Hydroxychloroquine: This drug was identified early as a possible treatment but has since found to be potentially harmful, putting patients at risk for abnormal heart rhythms.
Convalescent plasma: Blood from recovered COVID patients was studied as a possible treatment, however, results show that it’s less effective than other treatments.
Zinc, vitamin C or other supplements: There are not enough studies to suggest these supplements will help heal COVID-19. Not only that, high doses of vitamins and minerals can lead to problems with blood counts, including low hemoglobin, and possible nervous system damage. If you use these, use them in moderation.
Proven to work
Remdesivir: This antiviral drug interrupts the production of viruses like COVID and has been shown to help shorten the recovery time from COVID-19.
Dexamethasone: This is a corticosteroid that can relieve the inflammation from COVID-19 that can severely damage patients’ lungs and other organs and help keep you from getting sicker.
Monoclonal antibodies: These may block the virus from attaching to human cells, making it harder for the virus to reproduce and get worse.
Baricitinib: An oral tablet normally used for arthritis that, in combination with Remdesivir, can lower your chance of getting sicker by reducing inflammation (swelling) in your body.
Paxlovid: This is an oral antiviral medication that combines two drugs – nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. This drug inhibits a COVID protein to stop the virus from replicating.
Molnupiravir: This oral antiviral medication works by introducing errors into the virus’ genetic code, which prevents the virus from further replicating.
Prevention is the best medicine – with COVID and many other illnesses. “The best prevention we have is vaccination,” Basel said.
Basel said getting the vaccine — and getting it for everyone who is eligible — is the “very best thing you can do for yourself, your loved ones and your community.”
“We recommend getting your booster if you are eligible,” he said. “It’s something all of us can do that will truly make a difference for everyone.”