Since December 2019 SARS-Cov-2 was found responsible for the disease COVID-19, which has spread worldwide. No specific therapies/vaccines are yet available for the treatment of COVID-19. Drug repositioning may offer a strategy and a number of drugs have been repurposed, including lopinavir/ritonavir, remdesivir, favipiravir and tocilizumab. This paper describes the main pharmacological properties of such drugs administered to patients with COVID-19, focusing on their antiviral, immune-modulatory and/or anti-inflammatory actions. Where available, data from clinical trials involving patients with COVID-19 are reported. Preliminary clinical trials seem to support their benefit. However, such drugs in COVID-19 patients have peculiar safety profiles. Thus, adequate clinical trials are necessary for these compounds. Nevertheless, while waiting for effective preventive measures i.e. vaccines, many clinical trials on drugs belonging to different therapeutic classes are currently underway. Their results will help us in defining the best way to treat COVID-19 and reducing its symptoms and complications. LINKED ARTICLES: This article is part of a themed issue on The Pharmacology of COVID-19. To view the other articles in this section visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v177.21/issuetoc.