COVID-19 treatments

Last Updated: 16 May 2022 11:42am

COVID-19 treatments – information for patients

Medications are available to some people who test positive for COVID-19. These medications may be referred to as antiviral medicines, or simply ‘antivirals.’ Antiviral medicines must be prescribed by a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Antiviral medicines do not replace the need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination remains the best way to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe from the effects of COVID-19 infection.

Some antiviral medications for COVID-19 can be taken orally (by mouth) which means you can take these medicines at home, and don’t have to go to a hospital for treatment.

Not everyone with COVID-19 will need, or can have, an antiviral medication. These medications are of most benefit to people who are at greatest risk of severe disease, or who are in hospital with severe illness from COVID-19.

Importantly, oral antiviral medicines for COVID-19 treatment in the home must be given within 5 days of symptoms starting. As such, it is helpful to know if you may be eligible for these antiviral medicines, so that you can seek medical assistance early and be able to access appropriate treatments in time.

To access care and see if you may need antiviral medicines, you can call COVID@home on 1800 973 363 or contact your General Practitioner for advice.

Who are antiviral medicines for?

Even if you have a higher chance of severe illness from COVID-19, antiviral medicines may not be right for you. The prescribing doctor will make an assessment as to whether antiviral medicines are needed and safe for you to take them. They will consider other medical conditions you may have, and any other medications you are taking.

Only some people with COVID-19 will be eligible to receive antiviral medicines.

For oral antiviral medicines, these medications may be given to people 18 years and over with COVID-19 who:

  • do not need extra oxygen to help with their breathing, and
  • are not in hospital, and
  • have a higher risk of getting very sick from their COVID-19 infection.

People who have a higher chance of getting very sick from COVID-19 include:

  • immunocompromised
  • unvaccinated or vaccination not up-to-date
  • aged 65 years or older OR 50 years or older if Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • Obese (BMI >30kg/m2)
  • Serious heart disease such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy
  • Serious lung disease including COPD, severe asthma, interstitial lung disease and bronchiectasis
  • Diabetes Type 1 and 2, and who need medication to control their blood sugar level
  • Active cancer (not including minor cancers not associated with immunosuppression)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Severe chronic liver disease
  • Neurological conditions such as stroke or dementia
  • Pregnant women.

For more information see oral treatments for COVID-19 on the Australian Government Department of Health website.

If you have any of these risk factors, it is important that you:

  • Undertake a test at the first sign of symptoms (a PCR test is preferred but you could also have a RAT if a PCR is difficult to access)
    • Report any positive RAT test immediately online or phone the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
  • If this test is positive, either call your GP or enrol in to the COVID@home program.
  • Let your doctor, or other health professional know, if you have any of the above risk factors.