whentotest

If you are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID, you can get a prescription and medication at pharmacies and community health centers that are part of the Test to Treat program. You can also get a prescription from a health-care provider, urgent-care center, or community health center and bring it to a pharmacy that carries COVID medication to get the prescription filled. If you don’t have access to any of these, call Combat COVID at 1-877-332-6585 to ask about treatment options.

All of the medications for COVID have to be used early. Some of them have to be started within 5 days of the time when symptoms began. If it’s been more than 10 days since you first felt symptoms, then it’s too late for any of the current medications to be used. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to get tested if you feel sick.

When you go to get your prescription, you'll need to bring with you a list of all the medications you are already taking. If you have recent lab reports, bring those, too.

The Test to Treat program lets people who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID get tested and receive free treatment in the same visit. Here's how it works:

  • If you're at high risk and think you might have COVID, you can go to a participating pharmacy-based clinic or community health center and get tested. If you test positive on a rapid test at home, or you get tested somewhere else and show up positive, you can bring your results with you instead of getting tested at the pharmacy or health center.

  • Not all pharmacy-based clinics or community health centers offer Test to Treat, so check before you go.

  • Bring with you a list of all the medications that you take, as well as any recent lab reports.

  • If you test positive, the health care provider at the clinic will look at your list of medications and lab results and talk to you about your health. That information will tell them if they can prescribe COVID medication for you.

  • If the health care provider prescribes COVID medication for you, you can get it for free at that same pharmacy or community health center.

Two different types of medication for COVID are available: antivirals and monoclonal antibodies. They have all received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA —none are fully approved yet.

Antivirals

Antivirals don’t usually kill viruses directly. Instead, they make it harder for viruses to make more virus within your body. They may also make it harder for viruses to get into your cells.

Monoclonal antibodies

Antibodies are proteins that stick to the virus and then tell the immune system to kill it or keep it from entering cells. They’re one of your body's first defenses against getting infected. Monoclonal antibodies are a set of antibodies that all look exactly alike. Because they all have the same shape, they all stick to the virus in the same way.

You could, but nobody knows whether that has anything to do with the antivirals.

From the beginning of the pandemic, there have always been some people who get sick again right after they've gotten over COVID, even if they haven't been in contact with anyone who's infected. That's called a relapse. We don't know whether a relapse is more likely after you've taken antivirals. When the antivirals were tested, for every 100 people in the trials, one or two people would relapse. That number was about the same whether or not the people took any medication. It's possible that the number of relapses is the same as it's always been, but we're hearing more about it because it happens after people take anti-COVID medication.

Two things we do know:

  • The virus is not becoming resistant to the antivirals.

  • The antivirals are very good at keeping you from being hospitalized or dying from COVID, even if you have a relapse.

If you have a relapse, let your health-care provider know right away. You will also have to start your isolation over again.

If you have any of the conditions on the CDC Medical Conditions page, you’re at high risk. Here are just a few examples from that list:

  • 65 years old or older

  • Obese or overweight

  • Pregnant

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Diabetes

  • Have a condition or receiving treatment that weakens or suppresses your immune system

  • Heart disease

  • Chronic lung diseases including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and moderate to severe asthma

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy

  • Have a medical device (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides which drugs and medical tests can be used in this country. The full FDA approval process can take months to years.

When a public-health emergency happens, there isn’t time for new drugs or tests to go through the entire process. That’s when the FDA can use Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). It allows the FDA to let certain medical products be used more quickly, while still making sure they are as safe as possible. All treatments and tests for COVID used in the US have received an EUA. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have received full approval from the FDA for adults. The Pfizer vaccine has an EUA for children ages 11 to 16.