COVID-19 treatments for people at highest risk of serious illness (updated 12 July 2022)

Antibody and antiviral treatments are available to people with COVID-19 who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill. You may be at highest risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if you have cancer, including blood cancers such as lymphoma. These treatments can help some people to manage COVID-19 symptoms and reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill or being admitted to hospital.

Take a government supplied test as soon as you experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Treatment should be started within 5 days of developing symptoms. You need to have reported a positive result from a government supplied test to access treatment. 

If you have reported a positive test, the NHS should contact you within 24-48 hours. If you have not been contacted, call your GP, 111, your medical team or your health board, who can make an urgent referral to a COVID Medicines Delivery Unit on your behalf.

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What COVID-19 treatments are available?

Who can have the COVID-19 treatment?

How to access COVID-19 treatments


What COVID-19 treatments are available?

The treatments available are:

  • Sotrovimab (a neutralising monoclonal antibody, brand name Xevudy), given through a drip into a vein at a specialist COVID Medicines Delivery Unit. Treatment should be started within 5 days of developing symptoms. 
  • Remdesivir (an antiviral medicine, brand name Veklury), given through a drip into a vein at a specialist COVID Medicines Delivery Unit. Treatment should be started within 7 days of developing symptoms. 
  • Molnupiravir (an antiviral medicine, brand name Lagevrio), provided as capsules. A hospital pharmacy will usually arrange for the medicine to be delivered to you or it can be collected by a friend or relative. Treatment should be started within 5 days of developing symptoms. 
  • Nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir (an antiviral medicine, brand name Paxlovid), provided as capsules. A hospital pharmacy will usually arrange for the medicine to be delivered to you or it can be collected by a friend or relative. Treatment should be started within 5 days of developing symptoms. 

A healthcare professional will decide the most appropriate treatment for you based on your medical history. They may ask what other medicines you are taking to check if the treatments might cause problems for you, so have a list of your medicines with you for any appointments.

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Who can have the COVID-19 treatment?

The treatments are available to people aged 12 and over who:

  • are at highest risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • have symptoms of COVID-19 
  • have tested positive for COVID-19.

You should have been made aware if you might be eligible for treatments by either NHS England or your specialist. If you have not been contacted, and you think you should have been, your specialist will be able to confirm if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments. 

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How to access COVID-19 treatments

Accessing COVID-19 treatments is slightly different in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have summarised what you need to do to access the treatments below. The most important thing is to take a test as soon as you experience symptoms, however mild, as some treatments need to be started within 5 days.

Let your specialist know if you have tested positive for COVID-19.

England

  • Most people who are eligible will receive an updated letter about accessing the new treatments. 
  • If you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments, make sure you have some rapid lateral flow tests at home so you can get tested quickly if you get symptoms of COVID-19. If you do not have tests at home or need more tests, you can order free COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test kits on GOV.UK, or call 119 free of charge.
  • If you were previously sent a PCR test you can keep it, but do not use it unless asked to do so by your NHS team. 
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms take a lateral flow test as soon as possible, even if your symptoms are mild. Only use tests from GOV.UK or NHS 119, which are free of charge. Do not use a test you have bought, such as a test from a supermarket or pharmacy. You cannot report a result from a privately bought test on GOV.UK, which means the NHS cannot contact you about COVID-19 treatments. You must report your COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test result on GOV.UK.
  • If your test is negative but you still have symptoms, you should take another test on each of the next 2 days (3 tests in total over 3 days).
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, it's important to start the treatment as soon as you can. Treatments for COVID-19 need to be given quickly after your symptoms start to be effective. If you have reported your positive test result, the NHS will usually call you within 24 hours of your result. They'll give you more information and ask questions to check if treatment is right for you. They may ask what other medicines you take or receive, including any vitamins and minerals, so it’s important to have a list of these ready.
  • If you have not been contacted within 24 hours of your positive test, but you think that you may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments, call your GP, specialist or 111 and ask for an urgent referral for COVID-19 treatment.
  • You can find out more information about accessing COVID-19 treatments if you live in England on the NHS website

Scotland

  • Most people who are eligible will receive a letter about accessing COVID-19 treatments. 
  • If you are eligible for the treatments, you should keep a pack of lateral flow tests at home. You can order a free pack for home delivery online or by phoning 119.
  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, take a test as soon as possible, even if your symptoms are mild. Your lateral flow test is not complete until you report your result online, or by calling 119, and receive a result confirmation notification.
  • If your lateral flow test is negative, but you still have symptoms, you should take another test on each of the next 2 days (3 tests in total over 3 days). 
  • If your test is positive and you're eligible for treatment you need to do three things: 
    • contact your NHS health board. They'll assess your suitability for treatment. 
    • Phone 119 and request two PCR kits. Tell the call handler that you live in Scotland and are eligible for treatment. You should do this as soon as possible after your positive result. Two tests will arrive within 24 to 48 hours. You should take one of these tests as soon as it arrives and the other 5 days after your treatment begins. You cannot order these tests online. 
    • Follow stay at home advice: stay at home for 3 days if you're 18 years and under, or for 5 days if you're over 18 years. Day 1 is the day after you took your test.
  • There is no need to take a PCR test to start receiving treatment. However, taking a PCR test before and after you have your treatment for coronavirus helps provide extra information about any changes to the virus and how well the treatments are working. The first test should be taken as soon as it arrives, if possible this should be before you take the first dose of your treatment. You should not delay treatment to wait for the PCR tests to arrive or wait for the result. If it hasn’t arrived when you get your treatment, just take it as soon as you can. Take the second test on day 5 of your treatment, whether you have finished treatment or not, and regardless of when you took the first test.
  • After contacting your NHS health board you'll be assessed for your suitability for treatment. If eligible, you'll be asked about the medicines that you're currently taking. Please have the list of medicines that you're taking handy when you call. 
  • If you test positive while you're away from home in any other part of Scotland or the UK, you should still contact your home health board where you permanently live. This is because your home health board in Scotland will have access to more information about you to support any requirements to confirm your eligibility. They'll then help you to access the closest treatment service to where you are temporarily staying.
  • You can find out more information about accessing COVID-19 treatments if you live in Scotland from NHSinform.

Wales

  • Most people who are eligible will receive a letter about accessing the new treatments. 
  • You should keep a pack of lateral flow tests at home in case you develop symptoms. You can order lateral flow tests online or by calling 119.
  • If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, take a lateral flow test as soon as possible, even if your symptoms are mild. You can only receive some treatments if your symptoms started within the last 5 days. You must report your lateral flow test result online or by calling 119. 
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms but your lateral flow test result is negative you should take a PCR test. You can order a PCR test kit by calling 119.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, a healthcare professional may contact you. This could be by telephone or text message (SMS). They will arrange an appointment to decide whether treatment is suitable for you.
  • Call 111 if you have not been contacted within 48 hours of reporting a positive test result and explain that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and may be eligible for treatment.
  • You can find out more information about accessing COVID-19 treatments if you live in Wales from GOV.Wales.

Northern Ireland

  • Keep a pack of lateral flow tests at home in case you develop any symptoms of COVID-19. You can order order lateral flow tests online or by calling 119. 
  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, take a test as soon as possible, even if your symptoms are mild. You can only receive some treatments if your symptoms started within the last 5 days. You must report your lateral flow test result online or by calling 119. 
  • If your first lateral flow test is negative, but you still have symptoms, you should take another lateral flow test on each of the next two days (three tests in total over three days). If all three lateral flow test results are negative and you have COVID-19 symptoms you should contact your GP. You should also take a PCR test and can order a PCR test kit for home delivery by calling 119.
  • If any of your lateral flow tests are positive and you have reported the result, or if you have taken a PCR test and the result is positive, you will receive a message about your positive test result.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 but you do not receive a text message or a follow up call about treatment but feel you may be eligible, contact your GP who can contact the trust on your behalf. GPs and out of hours GPs can advise you on eligibility for treatment and can refer eligible patients directly for treatment at their local Trust.
  • If you're travelling within the UK and need access to COVID-19 treatment, you can be referred to the same service in England, Scotland and Wales to allow you to access treatment within the recommended time from where you are staying.
  • You can find out more information about accessing COVID-19 treatments if you live in Northern Ireland from nidirect

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Helpful resources

If you’d like to talk, contact our Helpline Services on freephone 0808 808 5555 from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, or via Live Chat through our website. You can also email us at information@lymphoma-action.org.uk.

You might find some of our other resources helpful:

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