Information for Patients
Residents who test positive for COVID-19 can now seek new treatments that help prevent severe disease. Therapeutics are medications used to treat at risk groups for COVID-19 and are prescribed by healthcare providers. Please contact your health care provider to determine if you are eligible for a COVID-19 therapeutic.
Please note treatments must be started within the first few days to be effective. These therapeutics are NOT a substitute for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and staying up to date on approved boosters can lower your risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevent serious illness and death.
What are antiviral drugs?
Antiviral drugs inhibit or reduce the ability of the virus to replicate in your body, which can lessen the severity of the disease. Currently, Remdesivir (Veklury®) is an approved injection that can be administered in an outpatient setting or to hospitalized patients. There are also antiviral drugs in a pill form that can treat non-hospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms with the risk of progressing to severe disease.
What oral medications are available for the treatment of COVID-19 illness?
For persons with COVID-19 who are not hospitalized but are at high risk of severe illness, treatments for COVID-19 are available on a limited basis.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given two oral COVID-19 antiviral medications Emergency Use Authorization (EUA): Paxlovid (Pfizer) and Molnupiravir (Merck).
Are these medications effective?
According to information provided by the manufacturers, Paxlovid (Pfizer) reduces the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by 89% and Molnupiravir (Merck) reduces the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by 30%.
How are these medications taken?
These medications are available as pills. For antiviral pills to be most effective, they need to be taken as early as possible and within five days of illness. Treatment must be started within the first 5 days of illness.
Do I have to have a positive COVID-19 test to take these medications?
No, the FDA no longer requires a positive COVID-19 test to get a prescription for antiviral treatment, however, your individual provider may still require a test. Contact your medical provider to determine if treatment is appropriate. Testing is available through local retail establishments and community providers. To find additional locations for testing click here.
Can I take one of these oral antiviral COVID-19 treatments?
Patients are eligible for these medications if they:
- Have positive tests for the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2),
- Are not hospitalized,
- Have mild to moderate illness,
- Have had symptoms for five days or less, and
- Are at high risk to develop severe COVID-19 because of:
- Age over 50 years, with risk increasing substantially at age ≥ 65 years
- Being unvaccinated or not being up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations
- Specific medical conditions and behaviors
- Age > 12 (for Paxlovid) or >18 (for Molnupiravir) and have any of the conditions that increase the risk of severe illness listed by the CDC
Some people from racial and ethnic minority groups are at risk of being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 from many factors, including limited access to vaccines and healthcare. Healthcare providers can consider these factors when evaluating the risk for severe COVID-19 and use of outpatient therapeutics.
More details: Actions Healthcare Providers Can Take for Patients at Higher Risk of Severe COVID-19
What are monoclonal antibodies?
Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the ability of our body’s immune system to fight off harmful pathogens like the virus that causes COVID-19.
Where can I receive monoclonal antibody treatment?
You will need a treatment referral from a health care provider to set up an appointment. If you have any questions about the treatment, please ask your provider.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed a public-facing COVID-19 therapeutics locator displaying public locations that have received shipments COVID-19 therapeutics. This locator tool can be found at: https://covid-19-therapeutics-locator-dhhs.hub.arcgis.com/.
These therapies require a prescription by a licensed and authorized provider. The therapeutics locator is intended for provider use. Patients should not contact locations directly unless instructed to do so by their healthcare provider.
How and where can I get obtain these medications?
To obtain these medications, you must have a prescription for them from a medical provider licensed to prescribe drugs in the District of Columbia. Please bring your insurance card. The medications themselves are available at no cost. These prescriptions can be filled at:
- Select Pharmacies in Washington, DC including retail pharmacies and healthcare facility outpatient pharmacy locations. Pharmacies may charge a fee to dispense them, but this fee should be covered by health insurance. Click here to search the therapeutics locater and find a pharmacy near you with antiviral medications.
- Test to Treat program
The test to treat program is an additional pathway for fast access to lifesaving COVID-19 treatments and can be found online. A web-based site locator is now available to make it easier to find Test to Treat locations.
Those who may have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support locating a Test to Treat site can call 1(800) 232-0233 (TTY 1(888) 720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages – 8 am to midnight ET, 7 days a week. The Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) is also available to specifically help people with disabilities access services. To get help, call 1(888) 677-1199, Monday-Friday from 9 am to 8 pm ET or email [email protected].
Where can I find more information on COVID Therapeutics?
More information on these medications is available at these links:
US Department of Health and Human Services
- COVID-19 Therapeutics
- HHS Combat COVID – Information for Healthcare Professionals
- HHS Combat COVID – Monoclonal Antibodies for High-Risk COVID-19 Positive Patients