Updated August 30, 2021. Originally published April 21, 2020
- The pandemic has produced an “infodemic” of conflicting and confusing data.
- Be wary of anyone selling products they claim to be “cures” or “preventative therapies” for COVID-19.
- Continue following the advice of medical professionals. If you test positive for COVID-19 or believe you are sick, call your doctor.
As much as we like to think we can spot a scam from a mile away, the current pandemic has made all of us vulnerable to misinformation. As WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in February 2020, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.” Waves of information and rumor wash over us every day, and it can be difficult to determine what is reality and what is a conspiracy theory.
There has been a lot of chatter about “cures” for COVID-19. It’s important to understand the facts, though: there is no "cure" for COVID-19. There is one approved therapy, and a few promising treatments that are undergoing further study.
Remdesivir (Veklury) is the only FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19. This interesting medication was investigated during the height of the last Ebola outbreak. Technically a prodrug – a medication that is inactive until metabolized by the body – remdesivir has become the standard treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The FDA has granted emergency use authorizations (EUAs) to two monoclonal antibody drugs: REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab) from Regeneron and sotrovimab from GlaxoSmithKline. (Authorization for a third antibody was paused after it was found to be ineffective against the COVID-19 variants.) Both treatments can be given to patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are at high risk of severe illness. However, monoclonal antibodies are limited in scope. They are not effective for patients who are currently suffering with severe symptoms, are hospitalized, or are on oxygen therapy.
Researchers continue to hold out hope that existing medications could help treat COVID-19. Recently, a study suggested that fluvoxamine, an affordable SSRI used for depression and OCD, could reduce the likelihood of severe illness. Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, is another contender. Both have anti-inflammatory qualities that could help patients recover.
You might wonder why drug manufacturers aren’t racing to develop a treatment specifically for COVID-19. For one, creating completely new medications is a lengthy and complicated process and costs billions of dollars. In addition, only about 12% of potential drugs are ultimately approved. Besides, vaccines are the best way to control viruses.
Myths and fake remedies
The fact that we know so little about COVID-19 makes us susceptible to fake news. For example, many Americans have been convinced to take one of two "treatments" that have been debunked by science: hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
Despite the hype, hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial that has proven useful in the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has not been an effective treatment for COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine can also be dangerous for cardiac patients. It prolongs the QTc interval which can contribute to sudden death.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug. It is not an anti-viral or anti-inflammatory. Therefore, has never been considered by medical professionals as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Ivermectin is used in veterinary medicine to control parasites like nematodes and arthropods. It is approved to treat human parasitic infections too, like Onchocerciasis (also known as River Blindness), Strongyloidiasis, and sometimes lice. Parasites, of course, are not the same as viruses. Ivermectin is not indicated for the treatment of any virus, let alone COVID-19.
It goes without saying that humans should not take veterinary medications or ingest topical medications, either. Any medications meant for cattle, sheep, and horses could cause toxicity in humans, and topical treatments, like lotions, are not meant to be taken orally.
In addition, watch out for fraudulent COVID-19 treatments hawked online. These products range from simply useless to actively harmful, and can give people a false sense of security.
Making peace with uncertainty
We still don’t know everything about the coronavirus, and that lack of knowledge is contributing to the infodemic. Researchers all over the globe are working as quickly as they can, but not every scientific paper published in the next few months will stand the test of time (or the test of other scientists). The pace of the pandemic is bewildering.
We advise that you avoid internet “cures,” follow the advice of your doctors and pharmacists, and stick to the accepted preventative measures against COVID-19. Get the vaccine. Stay home if you are at high risk. If you must go out, wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
And if your doctor does end up prescribing you a medication – whether it’s for COVID-19, an ear infection, or high blood pressure – ScriptDrop can deliver it to your home. We’re here to help patients, every day.
Disclaimer: The ongoing COVID-19 situation may lead to updates to the information in this article. We will note any updates here.