COVID-19 treatments

Last Updated: 21 Sep 2022 11:52am

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COVID-19 treatments – information for patients

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

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 is eligible for, an antiviral medication. These medications are of most benefit to people who are at higher-risk of severe disease, or who are in hospital with severe illness from COVID-19.

People who are at higher of severe illness from COVID-19 are listed below.

If you believe you are at higher-risk, you should:

  • make a treatment plan with your GP or health care provider before you get sick for how you will get tested and access antivirals if you test positive. This is because you need to begin taking antivirals for COVID-19 within 5 days of symptoms starting.
  • if you get any symptoms, contact your regular GP or health care provider as soon as possible and get tested. Higher-risk people are recommended to get a PCR test . If you get tested at a state-run PCR testing clinic you should let your GP know. Do not wait for your test result to contact your GP. Remember to report a positive RAT test online or by phoning the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
  • if you do test positive, let your GP or health care provider know straight away. If you don’t have a regular doctor or they are not available and you believe you are at higher-risk, doctors at GP-led respiratory clinics across the state can provide guidance on how to access antivirals if you are eligible. Find out more about GP-led Respiratory Clinics including booking an appointment. Or, phone the COVID@homeplus team on 1800 973 363 to discuss your care options. Let them know if you have any risk factors.Alternatively, the National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 can provide general guidance on antivirals or you can contact an afterhours doctors service.

Download an Easy Read fact sheet about COVID-19 medicines.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 oral antiviral medicines?

Senior Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible for antiviral treatments if you are:

  • 70 years and older, regardless of risk factors and with or without symptoms
  • 50 years or older with additional risk factors
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, 30 years or older and with additional risk factors.

Risk factors for these groups include:

  • living in residential aged care
  • living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty (but not limited to living in supported accommodation)
  • neurological conditions like stroke or dementia and demyelinating conditions e.g. multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • chronic respiratory conditions including COPD, moderate or severe asthma
  • obesity or diabetes (type I or II requiring medication)
  • heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies
  • kidney failure or cirrhosis
  • living remotely with reduced access to higher level healthcare.

People aged 18 years and older

If you test positive for COVID-19 and are moderately to severely immunocompromised, you may be eligible for antiviral treatments.

Conditions include:

  • blood cancer or some red blood cell disorders (thalassemia, sickle cell disease)
  • transplant recipient
  • primary or acquired (HIV) immunodeficiency
  • chemotherapy or whole-body radiotherapy in the last 3 months
  • high dose corticosteroids or pulse corticosteroid therapy in the last 3 months
  • immunosuppressive treatments in the last 3 months
  • rituximab in the last 12 months
  • cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome
  • congenital heart disease
  • living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty.

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

Antiviral medication used to treat flu is different to the medication that is used to treat COVID-19. Find out if you are eligible for antiviral medication to treat flu.

Antiviral medication dispensed in Tasmania

Source: Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

* Current week data from the Commonwealth is generally incomplete. Data is adjusted in the next week’s report when full week PBS data is available.
** This data does not include non-PBS antiviral dispensing e.g. hospital inpatients.