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Are People Delaying COVID-19 Care with Unproven Treatments?

The WHO declared that the coronavirus spread has become a pandemic. People are panicking. The FDA is going after companies advertising unproven treatments.

A crisis can bring out the best…or the worst in people. During natural disasters, some people rush to help while others try to make money. When people are told to evacuate before a big hurricane hits, some gas stations may raise the price of fuel $2 or $3 a gallon. We find such practices unconscionable. Now, with panic about the coronavirus building, some companies are trying to profit by offering unproven treatments.

FDA and FTC Clamp Down on Unproven Treatments!

The Food and Drug Administration together with the Federal Trade Commission are warning people about unapproved treatments that are being marketed to control COVID-19. The FDA is worried that people who may have symptoms might use products sold online such as essential oils, tinctures, teas and colloidal silver. The agency points out that there are no approved drugs or vaccines against coronavirus infection at this time.

The feds are concerned that people who are sick with the coronavirus might try one of these products in the hope of curing the illness. That might delay a trip to the hospital. For some vulnerable patients, such a pause could be life threatening.

The Chinese Full-Court Press:

Health experts have been praising Chinese physicians for saving lives by doing several things well:

1) Quick detection. COVID-19 patients were identified fast
2) Rapid isolation! As soon as someone was found to be sick, they were separated from society
3) Immediate treatment. Since there is no cure, supportive measures are essential. In China that often translated to use of ventilators or other life-support machines (ECMO or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation)

Unproven Treatments and the FDA:

Delaying life-support interventions while using unproven treatments scares us.

Here is what the FDA stated it its release (March 6, 2020):

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is issuing warning letters to firms for selling fraudulent products with claims to prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We are actively monitoring for any firms marketing products with fraudulent COVID-19 prevention and treatment claims.”

We have always found the FDA’s “warning letters” somewhat disappointing. Most health professionals and patients do not realize that the FDA has limited recall capability.

I was honored to participate in a news conference conducted by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. It was held in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2020. She was reintroducing the Recall Unsafe Drugs Act. It would give the FDA mandatory recall authority over drugs and alternative health products that pose a risk to the public.

The FDA does not seem enthusiastic about this legislation. Normally, government agencies welcome additional authority or power. Not in this case.

According to Congresswoman DeLauro’s office:

“Currently, the FDA has mandatory recall authority over other products that the agency regulates, such as medical devices, food, and biological products. Unfortunately, when something goes wrong with drugs, the FDA has to rely on the good faith of drug manufactures to recall their products. More often than not, drug manufacturers heed the warnings of the FDA when products are causing harm. However, there are times when manufacturers refuse to recall their products, even in the face of overwhelming evidence suggesting that they are causing illness or even death to consumers. DeLauro’s legislation would close this loophole and enable the FDA to step in and issue a mandatory recall.”

Congresswoman DeLauro has not had much support from either the FDA or the majority of her colleagues. The reintroduction of the Recall Unsafe Drugs Act was prompted in part by the problems of ranitidine. You may remember that this very popular acid-suppressing drug was found to be contaminated with nitrosamine. Here is a link to that problem

What to Do About the Coronavirus:

Be skeptical of any product that is advertised as preventing or curing COVID-19. Utilizing ineffective or unproven treatments might delay appropriate medical care.

If you suspect you are coming down with the coronavirus, get tested. Hopefully, that will become easier in the coming days. If you are older, have an underlying health condition or begin to have the first signs of breathing problems, seek immediate medical attention.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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