Updated Therapeutic Management of Patients with COVID-19



Therapeutic Management of Patients with COVID-19

From NIH:  Last Updated December 3, 2020

Executive Summary

Two main processes are thought to drive the pathogenesis of COVID-19. Early in the course of the infection, the disease is primarily driven by replication of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Later in the course of infection, the disease is driven by an exaggerated immune/inflammatory response to the virus that leads to tissue damage. Based on this understanding, it is anticipated that antiviral therapies would have the greatest effect early in the course of disease, while immunosuppressive/anti-inflammatory therapies are likely to be more beneficial in the later stages of COVID-19.

In the earliest stages of infection, before the host has mounted an effective immune response, anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody-based therapies may have their greatest likelihood of having an effect. In this regard, although there are insufficient data from clinical trials to recommend either for or against the use of any specific therapy in this setting, preliminary data suggests that outpatients may benefit from receiving anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies early in the course of infection. The anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies bamlanivimab and casirivimab plus imdevimab are available through Emergency Use Authorizations for outpatients who are at high risk for disease progression.

Remdesivir, an antiviral agent, is currently the only drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19. It is recommended for use in hospitalized patients who require supplemental oxygen. However, it is not routinely recommended for patients who require mechanical ventilation due to the lack of data showing benefit at this advanced stage of the disease.1-4

Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, has been found to improve survival in hospitalized patients who require supplemental oxygen, with the greatest effect observed in patients who require mechanical ventilation. Therefore, the use of dexamethasone is strongly recommended in this setting.5-8

The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel (the Panel) continues to review the most recent clinical data to provide up-to-date treatment recommendations for clinicians who are caring for patients with COVID-19. Figure 1 summarizes the Panel’s recommendations for managing patients with varying severities of disease. A comprehensive summary of the clinical data for the drugs that are being investigated for the treatment of COVID-19 can be found in the Antiviral Therapy, Immune-Based Therapy, and Adjunctive Therapy sections of these Guidelines.


  1. Beigel JH, Tomashek KM, Dodd LE, et al. Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 – final report. N Engl J Med. 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32445440.
  2. Wang Y, Zhang D, Du G, et al. Remdesivir in adults with severe COVID-19: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial. Lancet. 2020;395(10236):1569-1578. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32423584.
  3. Spinner CD, Gottlieb RL, Criner GJ, et al. Effect of remdesivir vs standard care on clinical status at 11 days in patients with moderate COVID-19: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2020;324(11):1048-1057. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32821939.
  4. Goldman JD, Lye DCB, Hui DS, et al. Remdesivir for 5 or 10 days in patients with severe COVID-19. N Engl J Med. 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32459919.
  5. Recovery Collaborative Group, Horby P, Lim WS, et al. Dexamethasone in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 – preliminary report. N Engl J Med. 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32678530.
  6. Jeronimo CMP, Farias MEL, Val FFA, et al. Methylprednisolone as adjunctive therapy for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 (Metcovid): a randomised, double-blind, Phase IIb, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32785710.
  7. Tomazini BM, Maia IS, Cavalcanti AB, et al. Effect of dexamethasone on days alive and ventilator-free in patients with moderate or severe acute respiratory distress syndrome and COVID-19: the CoDEX randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32876695.
  8. Writing Committee for the R-CAPI, Angus DC, Derde L, et al. Effect of hydrocortisone on mortality and organ support in patients with severe COVID-19: the REMAP-CAP COVID-19 corticosteroid domain randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2020. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32876697.