J Korean Med Sci.  2022 Dec;37(48):e352. 10.3346/jkms.2022.37.e352.

Treatment Options for Patients With Mild-to-Moderate Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Korea

  • 1Research Institute for Public Healthcare, National Medical Center, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Infectious Diseases, Clinical Infectious Disease Research Center, National Medical Center, Seoul, Korea
  • 3Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, National Medical Center, Seoul, Korea


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to threaten public health in Korea although several surges have passed in the past 3 years since 2019. Although patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 can usually recover at home, antiviral therapy to prevent disease progression and hospitalization is beneficial for those at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19. The purpose of this article was to review how antivirals have been rolled out for the treatment of COVID-19 and how domestic and international guidelines for their use have evolved. Several evidence-based treatment guidelines have been developed in Korea, including those derived from domestic studies. Although many different antiviral agents were nominated as promising therapeutics at the onset of the pandemic, most failed to show efficacy in clinical trials. Currently, three types of antiviral agents—nirmatrelvir-ritonavir, molnupiravir, and remdesivir—are available in Korea to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Each antiviral has its advantages and disadvantages. For most individuals, nirmatrelvir/ritonavir is preferred because of its high efficacy and convenience of administration. When serious drug interactions occur or are expected with nirmatrelvir/ritonavir administration, 3 days of remdesivir treatment is shown to be a reasonable alternative. Molnupiravir may be prescribed with caution only if no other therapeutic options are available or acceptable.


Coronavirus Disease 2019; SARS-CoV-2; Antivirals; Nirmatrelvir-Ritonavir; Molnupiravir; Remdesivir; Non-Hospitalized


  • Fig. 1 The timeline of antivirals approval in Korea and the United States. There is no available monoclonal antibody for COVID-19 in Korea.COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 2019, MFDS = Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, US FDA = United States Food and Drug Administration.aRemdesivir was approved only for the treatment of moderate to severe COVID-19 in this period.bThe indications of remdesivir was broaden to the outpatient setting.cDefinitive approval of remdesivir occurred in October 2020 by US FDA.

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