Frequently Asked Questions About How to Treat COVID-19

How is MDVIP treated? What drugs can help cure it? We answer these questions and others.

What drugs can effectively treat severe COVID-19?
Are there COVID-19 treatments that use antibodies?
Is hydroxycholorquine and zinc an effective treatment/prevention for COVID-19?
What drugs can prevent a COVID-19 infection?
When should I go to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms?


What drugs can effectively treat severe COVID-19?


Although there are currently no FDA-approved medicines to specifically treat COVID-19, several drugs prescribed under emergency use authorizations have shown promise in treating the most severe cases of the disease, according to published studies.

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug created to fight Ebola, is one of those drugs. In a major randomized trial, the broad-spectrum antiviral medication, shortened the time of recovery of adults hospitalized with COVID-19

The other is dexamethasone, a common steroid medication, which has been shown to reduce the mortality rate among those who receiving oxygen or mechanical ventilation

In both cases, early studies show promise. Research into both drugs is ongoing. 

Doctors have also been using convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, but it hasn’t been shown to be effective yet. Studies are underway.


Are there COVID-19 treatments that use antibodies?


There are several experimental treatments for COVID-19 that involve the use of antibodies. 

Antibodies are an essential part of your immune system. When a pathogen, like bacteria or a virus, invades your body, antibodies bind to the invader and neutralize it, minimizing its damage. Your body came with some antibodies, which were passed from your mother. But most antibodies are developed over time when you’re exposed to pathogens. With most viruses, once you’ve built up enough antibodies, you’re generally considered immune to reinfection – at least for a while. 

How long antibodies are protective for COVID-19 is still up in the air. But researchers have been looking at two treatment options for the disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus:

Convalescent Plasma
Convalescent plasma is a kind of blood product that contains antibodies of a particular virus or bacteria. For COVID-19, doctors are taking plasma from the blood of patients who have had and recovered from the disease and giving that plasma to patients who still have it.

Once platelets and red and white blood cells are removed, plasma is the clear liquid part of blood that remains. It contains water salts, enzymes, proteins and antibodies.

Convalescent plasma is designed to boost the immune systems of patients and dates back more than 100 years. It’s been used to treat diphtheria, scarlet fever, polio and tetanus and was used during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. More recently, the Food and Drug Administration, which has approved trials of convalescent plasma for COVID-19, approved convalescent plasma was tested to treat the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 and 2010 as well as SARS and MERS outbreaks. 

The FDA also recently approved an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

But does it work? So far, the evidence is muddy. There have been more than 80 studies looking at it, but many are observational -- meaning that patients were not randomized to receive convalescent plasma.  Ideally, randomized, controlled trials are conducted to help establish a cause and effect relationship and are generally done before a treatment is approved by the FDA. You can read more about the difficulty researchers have had showing that the approach works here.

Antibody Therapy
Another promising, but unproven therapy is also now being tested. Monoclonal antibody treatments use synthetic versions of antibodies that can be reproduced in a laboratory and are based on real COVID-19 antibodies.

These monoclonal antibodies can bind directly to portions of viruses that they use to attach to and enter cells, preventing them from initiating the infection cycle, according to the National Institutes of Health. These artificial antibodies may provide short-term protection from COVID-19 and could serve as important components of the COVID-19 pandemic response until vaccines become available. 

Researcher Erica Saphire, an infectious disease authority and professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology, recently discussed the potential in an MDVIP exclusive webinar. 

"We can use these antibodies to treat disease. If you have mild to moderate disease you can receive this treatment to prevent you from progressing to severe diseases. You can also use an antibody [treatment] to prevent disease in frontline medical workers, high risk groups like the elderly or pregnant women, or an outbreak situation.  So let's say you have an outbreak that's just begun at a nursing home, you can dose the other residents and the staff with protectant antibodies, so that they don't become sick, and that's key when there isn't a vaccine yet, or when you can't wait five weeks for that vaccine to [establish] protection."

Studies are ongoing to see if the approach will be effective.


Is hydroxychloroquine and zinc an effective treatment/prevention for COVID-19?


This is a popular question. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that people who take hydroxychloroquine in combination with zinc or without it are more protected than people who are not taking it. 

Early in the pandemic, there were anecdotal stories of success with hydroxychloroquine and several observational studies that suggested the drug, which is typically prescribed for malaria and some autoimmune disorders, might help some patients. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration approved it for emergency use in the treatment of COVID-19. 

However, subsequent, higher-quality controlled studies failed to show that hydroxychloroquine helped patients either recover from COVID-19 or prevent mortality. Patients typically fared the same as patients who weren't taking the drug. Some studies showed that the drug could cause dangerous side effects. 

The FDA has since revoked its emergency use authorization for the drug and most trials have stopped.

Before taking any new medication or over-the-counter supplement, discuss it with your MDVIP-affiliated physician.


What drugs can prevent a COVID-19 infection?


Unfortunately, there are no drugs currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

Several promising vaccines are in the final phase of human trials, and if successful, could be available in 2021. No other preventive therapies have panned out, though a number of drugs have been investigated by researchers. Studies are ongoing. 

The best ways to prevent for COVID-19 infections is to practice social distancing, avoid unnecessary trips out of the home and wear a mask when you come into contact with others in public. You should also take care of yourself: Exercise, eat healthfully and work with your MDVIP-affiliated primary care doctor to manage any chronic conditions.


When should I go to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms?


If you have COVID-19, you should stay in touch with your primary care physician and update them if your symptoms worsen. According to the CDC, if you or someone you're caring for is showing any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

 There are other symptoms that may warrant further intervention, which is why it's important to stay in touch with your doctor. Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility and let the operator know that you have COVID-19 or are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19. 

Similar Posts
You Think You’ve Got Coronavirus. Here's What You Should Do Next / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / March 24, 2020

Physician Locator
Enter a full address, city, state, or ZIP code. You can also browse our city directory to find physicians in your area.
Enter Doctor's Name