Many drugs are being evaluated in Canada and around the world as potential treatments for COVID-19. Health Canada has authorized several of these for use in Canada. You can search the complete list of applications received for COVID-19-related drugs and vaccines to find out their status.
On this page
- About treatments for COVID-19
- What authorization of a treatment means
- Procuring therapeutics to treat COVID-19
About treatments for COVID-19
Several different types of treatments for COVID-19 have been developed. Examples include drugs that reduce or stop the virus from multiplying in human cells and drugs that treat the symptoms of COVID-19.
Health Canada has authorized the following COVID-19 treatments. These treatments are available for provinces and territories to use in their health care systems. Each province and territory determines the appropriate administration of these drugs based on their needs.
- Remdesivir (Veklury®)
- Nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid®)
- Tixagevimab and cilgavimab (Evusheld®)
- Tocilizumab (Actemra®)
- Casirivimab and imdevimab
Remdesivir (Veklury®) is now approved for treating COVID-19 in an outpatient setting. When administered within 7 days of symptoms appearing, it reduces the need to hospitalize patients who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Together, 2 antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (brand name Pfizer-Paxlovid®), are authorized to treat adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who show symptoms and are at high risk of serious illness, including hospitalization or death. This is the first authorized COVID-19 treatment that people can take orally at home. Learn more about the factors that health professionals consider when prescribing Paxlovid.
Tixagevimab and cilgavimab (brand name Evusheld®)is an option for people who are immunocompromised and COVID‐19 vaccination is ineffective or not recommended. This is the first treatment being used to prevent COVID-19 in people 12 years of age or older who weigh at least 40 kg with such conditions. Evusheld is also approved for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and adolescents (≥12 years of age weighing at least 40 kg).Tocilizumab (brand name Actemra®) is now approved for treating adults with severe COVID-19 who are in hospital. These adults are receiving systemic corticosteroids and need supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation (non-invasive or invasive) or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
Health Canada continues to communicate important safety information to health care professionals and people living in Canada through the Recalls and Safety Alerts Database. This information includes the treatment failure from a number of products (Bamlanivimab, Casirivimab, imdevimab, Evusheld and Sotrovimab) in treating certain variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This risk was identified through global surveillance. We have also updated the Canadian Product Monograph (CPM) for these treatments to include information concerning SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.
What authorization of a treatment means
Health Canada only authorizes treatments, including those for COVID-19, following a thorough scientific review of the safety, efficacy and quality data. A treatment must show evidence that it works well, is of high quality and is safe. The available data must demonstrate that the treatment's benefits outweigh its risks.
The authorization may come with terms and conditions that the manufacturer needs to meet. These terms and conditions help ensure the continued quality, safety and effectiveness of authorized products.
As a result, the manufacturer may need to submit more information such as:
- post-market safety monitoring reports, including serious adverse drug reactions, and foreign regulatory actions related to the treatment's safety
- any further data on the safety and efficacy of the treatment, including final data from ongoing clinical trials
- further quality data confirming that the manufacturing processes and controls will consistently produce a product of suitable quality for the intended use (or 'products')
Companies are also required to submit a risk management plan (RMP) to Health Canada when applying for authorization.
RMPs include information on:
- a treatment's safety profile
- how its risks will be prevented or minimized in patients
- plans for studies and other activities to gain more knowledge about the safety and effectiveness of the treatment
- monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of measures that minimize risk
As for all treatments, Health Canada will continue to actively monitor and review all relevant data to determine if changes to the authorization of COVID-19 treatments in Canada are required. We will take prompt action should any safety concerns arise.
Health Canada will provide updates on post-market activities for each COVID-19 authorized treatment in their respective Post-Authorization Activity Table (PAAT). This table is found in the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments regulatory portal.
Procuring therapeutics to treat COVID-19
Early in the pandemic, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) took on a procurement role so that provinces and territories could have timely and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 treatments. Some of these new COVID-19 treatments were authorized through Health Canada's regulatory processes. Others were treatments that had already been approved by Health Canada to treat different non-COVID conditions.
While millions of Canadians have been vaccinated, many individuals may need access to COVID-19 treatments. Not everyone can or will be vaccinated, and COVID-19 infection may persist.
A complete series of recommended vaccines provides very good protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. However, vaccines are not 100% effective. For these reasons, therapeutics will continue to play an important, complementary role to public health measures and Canada's successful COVID-19 vaccination strategy.
Since the pandemic began, pharmaceutical companies have worked to develop new treatments for COVID-19. Numerous clinical trials are under way to test these new drugs as well as medications previously authorized by Health Canada (for non-COVID conditions). These trials are testing for their effectiveness and safety in treating COVID-19.
The decision by the Government of Canada to procure COVID-19 treatments is made by a committee of deputy ministers from various departments, including:
- Health Canada
- Department of Justice
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- National Research Council of Canada
- Public Services and Procurement Canada
- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
The Deputy Minister's committee works across the Government of Canada to integrate advice from different sources. As evidence on new treatments emerges, PHAC provides recommendations on whether to procure a COVID-19 therapeutic product. This committee also makes strategic decisions on the procurement of therapeutics, vaccines and related supplies.
Consultation is at the heart of the decision-making process, with decisions based on science and independent regulatory review. We also seek advice and input from:
- clinical experts
- provincial and territorial governments
- Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH)
- Institut national d'excellence en santé et services sociaux (INESSS)
For regular updates and guidance on COVID-19, please visit Canada.ca/coronavirus. This is the main federal source of information on COVID-19 for people living in Canada.
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