COVID-19 for health professionals: Treatments

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There are several options for COVID-19 treatments now as compared early in the pandemic. We are tracking promising drugs for use against COVID-19 that are being developed in Canada and abroad. To help expedite the development and availability of treatments to prevent and treat COVID-19, we are working with:

Since June 2020, Health Canada has been receiving drug submissions for COVID-19. Health Canada will continue to carefully review all of the data provided. Before any new treatment is made available to Canadians, it must be shown to be safe, effective and of high quality.

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Authorized drugs

Safe and effective therapeutic treatments have been developed to help reduce the severity of COVID-19.

From 2020 to 2021, Canada procured intravenous infusion monoclonal antibody therapies and the antiviral remdesivir (brand name Gilead-Veklury). These are available for use in provincial and territorial health care systems.

Canada also procured the combination of 2 antiviral drugs: nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (brand name Pfizer-Paxlovid).

Products that may ease symptoms such as fever and cough may be used as supportive treatments as appropriate for patients with COVID-19.

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Other treatments for COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists have been exploring whether existing drugs could be repurposed to treat COVID-19 patients.

For example, tocilizumab is approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It is now also used worldwide to treat patients who are severely ill with COVID-19.

Another example is dexamethasone, which is a corticosteroid medicine that has been available for several decades. It treats a range of inflammatory conditions because it helps to reduce the body’s immune response. Dexamethasone is often used as a treatment for severe COVID-19 because of its ability to reduce inflammation. This plays an important role in the disease process in some patients who have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

A prescribed use of a particular drug is possible when it is authorized and labelled following the regulator’s evaluation of the evidence of its safety, efficacy and quality. Using a drug for more than what is authorized on the label is part of the practice of medicine, which falls under provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

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