COVID-19 Updates

For the latest updates and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the NHS website.

This page provides a summary of Formulary updates specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Clinical Referral Guideline (CRG) updates specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here. The NHS Devon CCG Medicines Optimisation Team have produced a COVID-19 Information and Guidance page, which features a frequently asked questions section, please click here.

COVID-19 treatments for non-hospitalised patients

Covid Medicine Delivery Units (CMDUs) are responsible for the provision of COVID-19 treatments for non-hospitalised patients. For information on who to refer and how to refer to a CMDU, see the Clinical Referral Guidelines:

For information on COVID-19 treatments, please click here

Shared Care / SMS drug safety monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic

In order to minimise the need for patients to attend NHS facilities for face-to-face contact, the frequency of drug safety monitoring has been temporarily extended in certain clinical circumstances. Thresholds for action remain unchanged.

The guidelines for each drug have been amended, showing clearly in a blue font in the monitoring section of each guideline the changes introduced to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A very brief summary of changes can be found by clicking here. Prescribers should refer to the relevant individual guidelines for details, these can be found on the NHS Devon CCG website and via the relevant drug entries in the formulary.

Template letters are available to support practices in writing to their patients who are affected by these temporary changes to advise them of the revised monitoring arrangements and what this means for them. These can be found by clicking here.

Please note: These recommendations only apply to patients being treated in accordance with the Devon Specialised Medicines Service/ shared care guidelines; they do not apply to other clinical situations e.g. transplant patients or ad hoc individual arrangements between GPs and specialists – Prescribers should seek specialist advice for these patients.

***UPDATE 26/01/2022*** The national COVID-19 vaccination programme and established infection control measures in primary care have reduced the risk of exposure to infection for patients who need drug safety monitoring. A return to usual monitoring is therefore preferred, however it is acknowledged that the pandemic is resulting in ongoing capacity constraints in primary care. Local specialists have agreed to the following advice:

For Torbay Hospital Ophthalmology and Derriford Hospital gastroenterology, haematology, hepatology and renal guidelines:

GPs should aim to undertake monitoring at the usual frequency for all patients. GPs who are unable to provide monitoring at the required frequency due to capacity constraints should discuss each case with the consultant to agree who will be responsible for ongoing prescribing and monitoring. Please note the routine separation of prescribing and drug safety monitoring is not supported.

For ALL OTHER guidelines:

GPs should aim to undertake monitoring at the usual frequency wherever possible. GPs who are experiencing capacity challenges as a result of the pandemic may continue to institute the minimum monitoring requirements detailed in the individual guidelines if necessary. GPs are recommended to prioritise patients prescribed DMARDs, particularly the following groups, for usual monitoring:

  • Those aged 75 years and older
  • Those with cognitive impairment (where there may be concerns of a risk of taking an incorrect dose or non-compliance with the medication regimen)
  • Those with reduced renal function (GFR < 60mL/min/1.73m2)
  • Those with liver impairment e.g. chronic liver disease, impaired synthetic function such as cirrhosis
  • Those with a previous history of DMARD toxicity or history of bone marrow suppression with DMARDs
  • Those on combination therapy e.g. methotrexate and leflunomide (nb: no concern for combinations including sulfasalazine or hydroxychloroquine)
  • Any individual patient highlighted by their specialist as requiring immediate / more frequent monitoring

In addition, following any dose increase, patients should have the standard short-term increase in monitoring schedule (see individual guidelines for details)

GPs should continue to seek specialist advice if they have any specific concerns about individual patients.

End of life symptom control for patients dying of COVID-19

National guidance: Guidance has been issued for end of life symptom control for when a patient is dying of infection with COVID-19, please see here.

Prescribing for end of life symptom control: Local prescribing guidance and prescribing and medication administration records (PMAR) have been developed to support patients with COVID-19 infection who require end of life symptom control, please see here.

Prescribing information for symptom management via syringe driver: Local concise prescribing guidance has been produced to support practitioners in the care of patients in the community who require medicines for symptom management of COVID-19 via syringe drivers as they approach the end of life. Please see here.

End of life care resource for GPs: A resource page for GPs providing guidance for end of life care of patients with COVID-19 is available here. The page includes symptom management and links to the formulary palliative care section 16.17 End of life symptom control for patients dying of COVID-19 where the national and local guidance shown above is also available. Other topics covered include: the conversation, treatment escalation plans/do not resuscitate orders, care at the time of death, bereavement advice and support, care for carers and care for yourself.

Supply of medication for palliative care: please see here for a list of community pharmacies in Devon which maintain a minimum level of stock of more specialised medicines, including injectable medicines most likely to be used in the management of patients with COVID-19.

Advice for GPs regarding patients presenting in alcohol or opiate withdrawal to general practice during the COVID-19 pandemic

Issued by the Together Drugs and Alcohol Service: Exeter, East and Mid Devon, North Devon and South Devon (not Torbay)

The Together Drugs and Alcohol Service has issued advice for GPs who may be contacted by patients presenting in opiate or alcohol withdrawal during the COVID-19 pandemic. This advice can be found here. The prescribers at Together are continuing to assess and start new patients onto opioid substitution therapy; referral is via phone, email or letter (see contact details). Guidance is provided on adjunctive treatment and symptomatic relief for patients withdrawing from opiates.

GPs should not initiate a medically assisted withdrawal from alcohol. Guidance is provided for GPs who are contacted by patients for advice regarding alcohol detoxification. For urgent medical advice, see contact details.

Advice regarding the prevention and treatment of skin damage beneath personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic

Specific information regarding the Prevention and Treatment Protocol for Mask Associated Dermatitis (MAD) and Skin Damage beneath PPE (from Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust) during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found here (RD&E Intranet)

For further support or advice please contact:

  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust
    • Infection Prevention and Control – 01392 402355

Managing pneumonia in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic

For suspected or confirmed pneumonia in patients with COVID-19, refer to NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing COVID-19 (NG191) – identifying and managing co-infections section can be found here.

For guidance on managing bacterial pneumonia not secondary to COVID-19, see NICE guidance Pneumonia (community-acquired): antimicrobial prescribing (NG138)

Antibiotic treatment of pneumonia for adults in hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic

See NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing COVID-19 (NG191) for information on starting antibiotics in hospital and choice of antibiotics in hospital for hospital-acquired pneumonia. Link to recommendations in a hospital setting can be found here.

Please also refer to your local acute trust's antibiotic guidelines.

Rheumatological autoimmune, inflammatory and metabolic bone disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic

NICE has issued a COVID-19 rapid guideline (NG167): rheumatological autoimmune, inflammatory and metabolic bone disorders (03 April 2020). The following has been highlighted in the formulary to aid prescribers with patients having treatment with denosumab and zoledronic acid:

  • Do not postpone treatment with denosumab
  • Treatment with zoledronic acid can be postponed for up to 6 months

Management of anticoagulation during the COVID-19 pandemic

NHS England guidance on management of anticoagulant services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see here

NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing COVID-19 (NG191). This guideline includes pharmacological prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism (VTE) for patients with COVID-19 managed in hospital or in hospital-led acute care in the community (see here).

For women with COVID-19 who are pregnant or have given birth within the past 6 weeks, the recommendation is to follow the advice on VTE prevention in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy

MHRA advice (October 2020): Warfarin and other anticoagulants – monitoring of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

There have been concerns over an apparent increase in the number of patients taking warfarin found to have elevated international normalised ratio (INR) values. Continued INR monitoring is important in patients taking warfarin or other vitamin K antagonists (VKA) if they have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Some patients taking warfarin may have been switched to DOACs during the pandemic to avoid regular blood tests for INR monitoring.

Patients with COVID-19 may be treated with antibiotics in line with NICE guidance and may also be treated with antivirals.

Healthcare professionals are therefore reminded:

  • that acute illness may exaggerate the effect of warfarin tablets and necessitate a dose reduction
  • of the potential for drug-drug interactions between oral anticoagulants (i.e. VKA or DOACs) and certain antibiotics and antivirals and are advised to follow existing advice in product information
  • that warfarin treatment should be stopped before DOACs are started

Further information regarding the monitoring of patients taking warfarin and other anticoagulants (from the MHRA) during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found here; including advice to give to patients.

COVID-19 and vitamin D supplementation

NICE has issued a rapid COVID-19 guideline (NG187): vitamin D in collaboration with PHE and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). The guideline states do not offer a vitamin D supplement to people solely to prevent or treat COVID-19, except as part of a clinical trial. For more information, see the guideline here.

The NICE guideline recognises that people may have spent more time indoors over the spring and summer due to the coronavirus restrictions and therefore might not have made enough vitamin D from sunlight. The NICE guideline highlights that it is more important than usual to take vitamin D supplements to prevent deficiency this winter; the recommended dose of vitamin D is 10 micrograms (400 IU) per day. There are a range of products available to purchase at supermarkets, pharmacies and other retailers (see here for more information).

In addition, the UK government has announced that adults in England who are at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) from coronavirus (COVID-19) are eligible to receive free vitamin D supplements this winter. This is because there may be a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency as these groups have spent more time indoors this year. Eligible patients will receive a letter from the NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) inviting them to apply for four months' supply of vitamin D. Anyone who is able to purchase a vitamin D supplement and start taking them now is advised to do so, even if they are eligible for a delivery later in the year (See here and here for further information).

Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing the recommended amounts of vitamin D. See the Healthy Start website for more information.

Vitamin D should not be routinely prescribed in primary care unless there is a medically diagnosed deficiency, or when using calcium and vitamin D for osteoporosis, or for treating malnutrition including alcoholism (refer to management of Vitamin D deficiency).

Managing long terms effects of COVID-19

NICE has issued the COVID-19 rapid guideline NG188: Managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 in collaboration with the RCGP and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. The guideline covers identifying, assessing and managing the long-term effects of COVID-19, often described as 'long COVID'. It makes recommendations about care in all healthcare settings for adults, children and young people who have new or ongoing symptoms 4 weeks or more after the start of acute COVID-19.

The guideline does not include recommendations for specific medicines. The following recommendation is included for over-the-counter vitamins and supplements: “Explain to people that it is not known if over-the-counter vitamins and supplements are helpful, harmful or have no effect in the treatment of new or ongoing symptoms of COVID-19”.

Rare blood clotting syndrome associated with COVID-19 vaccination

NICE has issued the COVID-19 rapid guideline NG200: vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT). The guideline covers VITT, a syndrome which has been reported in rare cases after COVID-19 vaccination.

This is an evolving area, check the NICE website for the latest guidance.

Treatment is on the recommendation of a specialist involving a clinical haematologist.

Routine immunisation programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Specific information regarding maintaining immunisation programmes (from NHS England (NHSE)) during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found here.

Where possible, the routine immunisation programmes should be maintained and offered in a timely manner and non-scheduled vaccinations should still be given. Anyone with an appointment cancelled as part of COVID-19 response should be invited for vaccination as soon as possible.

Information contained in the document includes:

  • What personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when administering vaccines
  • Ordering vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • NHS Immunisations FAQs (for the public)

Corticosteroids in the treatment of COVID-19

Clinical guidance for dexamethasone and hydrocortisone in the treatment of patients with COVID-19 has been issued by the DHSC and NHSE. For more information, please see the CAS alert (issued 03 September 2020) which can also be found under the entries for dexamethasone and hydrocortisone in section 6.3.2. Glucocorticoid therapy

Antibiotics in the treatment of COVID-19

NICE COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing COVID-19 (NG191). Antibiotics should not be used for preventing or treating COVID-19 unless there is clinical suspicion of additional bacterial co-infection (see here)

Do not use azithromycin to treat COVID-19

Do not use doxycycline to treat COVID-19 in the community

Treatment of patients requiring Vitamin B12 during the COVID-19 pandemic

The British Society of Haematology (BSH) has issued advice on the management of patients requiring vitamin B12 supplements during the COVID-19 pandemic (found under the "General Haematology" header). This guidance covers patients who receive vitamin B12 for diet-related conditions and for conditions which are not thought to be diet-related (e.g. pernicious anaemia, history of total/partial gastrectomy or achlorhydria, inflammatory bowel diseases).

In patients who have vitamin B12 deficiency which is not thought to be diet-related and who have received regular maintenance parenteral vitamin B12, liver stores of vitamin B12 will be adequate to allow for the omission of one or two three monthly injections to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from face to face interaction with a healthcare professional. As an alternative, oral cyanocobalamin can be offered at a dose of 1mg per day until regular IM hydroxocobalamin can be resumed, i.e. once GP surgeries are able to do so safely, aiming to have a shortest possible break from regular injections. If oral cyanocobalamin is necessary, the local preferred brand is Orobalin 1mg tablets, this is recommended to ensure a licensed product is dispensed (SPC available here) and helps support cost-efficient use of local NHS resources.

If a patient is intending to attend a healthcare facility for a vitamin B12 injection, they should be informed of the increase in risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Contraception guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Guidance has been issued from the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists regarding contraception during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see here.

Updated guidance for the management of musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions with corticosteroids during the COVID-19 pandemic

For guidance which covers the management of patients with musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions who are receiving corticosteroids, or require initiation of oral or intravenous corticosteroids, or require a corticosteroid injection during the pandemic, please click here.

The guidance is supported by the British Society of Rheumatology, the Royal College of General Practitioners and other professional bodies. It supersedes guidance issued by NHS England at an earlier stage in the pandemic. The guidance covers:

  • Maximum daily doses of prednisolone for a range of indications
  • Intramuscular injections, intra-articular injections for inflammation, and injections for musculoskeletal pain
  • Factors to consider in deciding whether to use an injectable corticosteroid during the pandemic

Valproate Pregnancy Prevention Programme: temporary advice for management during the COVID-19 pandemic

The MHRA has issued temporary guidance for specialists for initiation of valproate in female patients, and for annual review and pregnancy testing to support adherence to pregnancy prevention requirements during the pandemic. Annual reviews should not be delayed. Please see here

Management of oral retinoid medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic

The MHRA has published temporary advice for specialists and patients about oral isotretinoin, alitretinoin and acitretin and the use of remote consultations for monitoring safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic (22nd June 2021). This guidance can be found here, and covers:

  • Pregnancy Prevention Programme
  • Monitoring for psychiatric disorders
  • Blood tests and clinical monitoring
  • Advice for prescribers to provide to patients

When prescription of an oral retinoid is under consideration, the initial consultation should be face to face wherever possible. If this is not feasible, for example due to the patient being in a high-risk group for COVID-19 complications, a remote consultation can be considered. The requirements of the Pregnancy Prevention Programme, blood testing and monitoring for psychiatric symptoms still apply, but may be adapted for remote consultation. For more information please see the full guidance.

Routine access to remdesivir in the treatment of COVID-19

From 3rd July 2020, a UK interim clinical commissioning policy has been put in place to define routine access to remdesivir for the treatment of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 across the UK.

For further details, see the formulary entry for remdesivir

Routine access to sarilumab and tocilizumab for treatment of COVID-19

From 1st February 2021, UK interim commissioning policies have been put in place to define routine access to sarilumab and tocilizumab for the treatment of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 across the UK.

For further details, see the formulary entry for sarilumab and tocilizumab

Last updated: 03-02-2022


Home > Formulary > COVID-19 Updates


  • First line
  • Second line
  • Specialist
  • Hospital