But what if I get sick? COVID-19 treatments

September 3, 2021

There’s been a lot of talk around vaccines for COVID-19 lately.

And with good reason — vaccines hold the promise to a more normal existence in Australia.  

But people will still catch the coronavirus. People will still develop symptoms of COVID-19. People will still need medical care.

And the medical care for people with COVID-19 has advanced over the last 18 months. Experts have been sifting through the myriad of medicines to work out the most effective treatments.

Recommended treatments will continue to evolve — as more evidence comes to light. Nonetheless, here’s a snapshot of the current COVID-19 treatments.

What do the COVID-19 treatments do?

Most people who die due to COVID-19 have respiratory failure. This is where a person can’t get enough oxygen to their lungs, remove carbon dioxide from the lungs, or both.

Severe COVID-19 can also damage other organs including the liver, heart, or kidneys.

The COVID-19 treatments people get aim to combat respiratory failure and protect vital organs.

  • In the early stages of COVID-19, doctors try to dampen the replication of the virus. This helps minimise the damage it can do throughout the body.
  • Later, they try to manage an excessive inflammatory response to the virus. That is, doctors want to “dampen down” the immune response, in a bid to reduce inflammation.
covid treatments

The current COVID-19 treatments
Remdisivir, dexamethasone and tocilizumab

  • Remdesivir — first explored to treat Ebola — stops the virus from copying itself. It seems to work best in the early stages of requiring oxygen support.
  • Dexamethasone acts to reduce inflammation in the lungs, which starts occurring in the second week of illness.
  • Tocilizumab — a monoclonal antibody also used for rheumatoid arthritis — has an anti-inflammatory action. It can help people with severe disease and high levels of inflammation.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins. They mimic our body’s immune system to help fight off harmful pathogens. Monoclonal antibodies are effectively used to treat a growing number of diseases, including:

  • cancer
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • multiple sclerosis


Sotrovimab is a new monoclonal antibody, that is under review by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

It’s helped to quash hospitalisation and risk of death in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19, who are at risk of developing severe COVID-19.

And it needs just one dose administered via IV infusion in a healthcare facility.

Not all people with COVID-19 will need this treatment. And it will only be available in a clinical trial setting until the TGA has reviewed and approved it.

But, according to experts, it’s not a silver bullet but a promising weapon in the fight to save lives. Experts say it’s nowhere near as important as vaccination.
‘For the main outcomes of interest, which are to prevent hospitalisation, ventilation and death, both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are more than 90% effective,’ says Professor Mark Morgan of the RACGP.
‘Vaccinations are both more effective and more affordable.’

Talk to an InstantScripts® GP about your COVID-19 vaccine options.

Covid Vaccines Australia

Tried, but not proven

According to the experts, there’s not enough evidence to support the safe and effective use of:

  • ivermectin
  • doxycycline
  • zinc (either separately, or in combination) for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
  • hydroxycholriquine

As with everything to do with this pandemic, things change rapidly. The best treatments today might not be the best treatments in six months. Recommended treatments will continue to evolve in response to scientific evidence.

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