- The pandemic has produced an “infodemic” of conflicting and confusing data.
- There are no approved therapies for COVID-19. But several existing drugs are currently being tested for effectiveness and safety.
- Be wary of anyone selling products they claim to be “cures” or “preventative therapies” for COVID-19.
- Continue following the advice of medical professionals.
As much as we like to think we can spot a scam from a mile away, the current pandemic has made everyone vulnerable to misinformation. As WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in mid-February, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.” Waves of information and rumors wash over us every day, and it can be difficult to determine what is based in science and what is a conspiracy theory.
Even legitimate research can feel shaky right now. Researchers are sharing their data more quickly and with less oversight than usual. It’s understandable: the novel quality of this coronavirus means we just don’t know much about it. We all want as much data as possible, as fast as possible. But that can mean that research accepted on a Monday and shared in the media on Tuesday can be disproven by Wednesday.
At ScriptDrop, we’re observing the COVID-19 situation closely. We’re trying to absorb as much information as we can, but with a critical eye. In the coming weeks, we’ll share informational posts like this one, staying as factual as possible. After all, we want to avoid adding to the noise of the infodemic.
Therapies under review
There’s been a lot of chatter about “cures” for COVID-19. One of them – hydroxychloroquine – received so much press that some people attempted to source it for themselves. It’s important to understand the facts, though: there are no approved therapies for COVID-19. Not yet.
But don’t give up hope. There are several existing drugs that might help patients. These drugs cannot be approved for widespread use until they undergo randomized clinical trials. So far, the trials have been small and there isn't enough data to say what will work and what won’t. Nevertheless, the medications listed below provide a glimmer of hope to doctors and researchers worldwide.
This is the one you’ve heard about on the news. An antimalarial, hydroxychloroquine has also proven useful in the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Unfortunately, we have no good data on whether it’s effective against COVID-19 or what the optimal dose would be. Hydroxychloroquine can also be dangerous for cardiac patients, because it prolongs the QTc interval which can contribute to sudden death.
Lopinavir & ritonavir
These two drugs are a combination therapy for HIV. A number of antivirals like these could be possible treatments for COVID-19, but few have been adequately tested. Lopinavir and ritonavir have not shown to be very effective in trials yet, perhaps due to a late start on the medication. Unless further trials show this therapy to be extremely effective, it’s unlikely it will have widespread use due to gastrointestinal side effects.
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 seems effective against coronaviruses in general. About half a dozen remdesivir clinical trials are on-going. Doctors can request it for COVID-19 patients outside of trials (children under 18 and pregnant women) through the compassionate use rule.
You might wonder why drug manufacturers aren’t developing 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. Several drug manufacturers are working on vaccines right now.
Myths and fake remedies
The fact that we know so little about COVID-19 makes us all susceptible to fake news. To combat the infodemic of conspiracy theories, the WHO created a webpage dedicated to busting COVID-19 myths.
For example, drinking lots of water and eating garlic are generally good for your health. Neither will keep you from contracting the virus. If you do contract the coronavirus, taking a hot bath might help ease your symptoms. But it won’t cure the virus. (If you suspect that you are sick, call your doctor right away.)
Sadly, some people have gone beyond spreading misinformation and are selling fake “cures.” The FDA has issued warnings to several companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 therapies. Some of these products could cause serious harm to people’s health.
We advise that you avoid internet “cures,” ask your doctor and pharmacist before starting a new supplement, and stick to the accepted preventative measures against COVID-19. Stay home. Wash your hands thoroughly. If you must go out, wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
Making peace with uncertainty
We don’t know a lot 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 sometimes haste makes waste. 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.
Stay vigilant. Ask questions. No matter what you read about prospective therapies or magical internet cures, follow the advice of medical professionals. 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.