Curious catalogue of COVID “cures”

Date: 16 December 2020

Mangoes, mouthwash, hot baths and camel urine are among the various items people around the world have used to treat or prevent COVID-19, according to internet searches by a Massachusetts-based pharmacist.

None had evidence to support its use.

Michael Steinberg, PharmD, BCOP, a professor of pharmacy practice at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Worcester, said Google searches for “weird treatments for COVID-19” performed in April, May and October yielded more than 100 million results.

The report of Mr Steinberg’s findings was published in Pharmacy Practice News.

The products he identified included foods such as black pepper, garlic, ginger and lemon, as well as medicines like nicotine patches and pneumonia vaccines.

They also included herbal remedies like cannabidiol and turmeric; nonmedicinal chemicals like chlorine bleach (inhaled), ethanol (drank), nasal saline rinses, baby shampoo and toothpaste; and procedures such as heat and sunlight exposure, cold exposure and hot baths.

The sources of information ranged from medical professionals to certified or self-described healers. He could not determine the source for many of the items he found.

Mr Steinberg said that during a pandemic, there were likely to be concerns of becoming infected and suffering complications from the virus.

To protect their health, many people were likely to take advice from others, he said, and the internet served as a portal to share information - even if it was erroneous.

“Some of these I cannot believe that people even considered as a potential option to treat a viral infection,” Mr Steinberg said.

However, “the key thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the stuff on the internet came about from people who come from different cultures, so you can’t knock it based on the idea of living here in the US.

“There are many people around the world who are used to using a lot of natural things, and things that we would consider completely not useful to treat your viral infection as potential options.

“A lot of this comes down to educating the public that COVID-19 is a serious viral infection,” he said.

“Doing things that don’t have any basis in the scientific evaluation are probably not a good option to treat a potentially deadly viral infection.”

This was reinforced by the Australian Border Force which has warned Australians not to import unproven coronavirus treatments after an increase in mail shipments seized by authorities.

The Australian Border Force said it was screening medical supplies coming into the country, revealing that prohibited substances are being imported by Australians at an alarming rate, under the belief they can help in protecting against the coronavirus.

Officers said they had seen a significant spike in detections of the herbal medicine ephedra and the highly politicised drug Hydroxychloroquine.

Ephedra occurs naturally in the Chinese herb Ma Huang. The drug contains the chemical ephedrine, an amphetamine-like compound closely related to adrenaline. It is believed by some to be able to ease the symptoms of COVID-19.

The full Pharmacy Practice News article can be accessed here.

Coronavirus 'cures' and prevention techniques are popping up all over the world. The ABC asked the experts what actually works and you can read their answers here.

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Page last updated on: 16 December 2020