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COVID-19 treatment: Remdesivir now available outside the hospital

Since 2020, remdesivir has been used in hospitals to treat people with COVID-19. Since January, it has been approved to help some people with mild or moderate COVID-19 avoid being hospitalized too. And in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its use to include young children. Here are some things you might want to know about this option:

Q: What is remdesivir?

A. Remdesivir (brand name Veklury) is an intravenous (IV) medicine. It treats COVID-19 by making it harder for the coronavirus to copy itself. For high-risk, non-hospitalized patients, it is given through an IV infusion once a day for three days. If your doctor prescribes remdesivir, you might get it at an outpatient infusion center or as part of a home healthcare service. It might also be given in nursing homes.

Q. Who can use it?

A. Adults and children with mild or moderate COVID-19 can use remdesivir if they are at high risk for getting severe COVID-19. That may include older adults and people with underlying health issues. Remdesivir was approved for use in children 28 days or older who are in the hospital or who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Babies must weigh at least 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) to use the medicine.  

Q. Does it work?

A. Yes. In clinical trials, remdesivir reduced the risk of being hospitalized among people at high risk for severe COVID-19. One trial found that 2 out of 279 people who took remdesivir had to be hospitalized as a result of their illness. That's compared to 15 out of 283 people who did not take the drug.

Q. What are the side effects?

A. The most common side effect of remdesivir is nausea. Other possible side effects include allergic reactions, such as:

  • Changes in blood pressure and heartrate.
  • Low blood oxygen level.
  • Fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Swelling of the face.
  • Rash.
  • Sweating or shivering.

Remdesivir also may raise your level of liver enzymes, which may be a sign of liver injury. If you receive remdesivir, your doctor may monitor your liver enzymes with blood tests.

Q. How can I get remdesivir?

A. You need a prescription for remdesivir. If you are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, tell your doctor as soon as you test positive. They can help you find out if remdesivir or other treatments for COVID-19 are right for you.

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Reviewed 4/25/2022

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