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Should You Be Wary of DXM Cough Medicine if You Catch COVID-19?

We are all hoping for an effective medicine to treat COVID-19. But are there drugs to avoid? A new study suggests you might be wary of DXM Cough Medicine.
Should You Be Wary of DXM Cough Medicine if You Catch COVID-...
A bottle of cold medicine poured into a spoon

There are no current successful treatments for COVID-19, but a preliminary study suggests that remdesivir holds promise. That is in contrast to this week’s study of hydroxychloroquine in the New England Journal of Medicine. Details at this link

Researchers are looking for other drugs that could be repurposed to fight SARS-CoV-2. They have identified a surprising number of approved medications that may have antiviral activity. We remain hopeful that either an old drug or a new one such as EIDD-2801 may hold promise against COVID-19.

Should You Be Wary of DXM Cough Medicine (Dextromethorphan)?

On the other hand, the same investigators made an alarming discovery. A common cough medicine, dextromethorphan (DXM or DM), seems to have proviral activity. In cell cultures, this medication made the infection worse.

Since cough is a common symptom of COVID-19, some people may be exposing themselves to this medication. The authors of the study urge caution until we have more information about whether dextromethorphan poses a real risk when people have COVID-19. In their own words the authors state:

“…we find that the widely used antitussive dextromethorphan harbors proviral activity and therefore its use should merit caution and further study in the context of COVID-19.”

Antitussive means cough medicine. We interpret these findings to suggest that people should be wary of DXM cough medicine while SARS-C0V-2 is circulating. We personally would not want to ingest any medication that has “proviral activity.” Dextromethorphan is not all that effective against coughs anyway. Learn more about it and alternative approaches at this link

Learn More About New Drugs for COVID-19

You will be able to hear more about the history and promise of remdesivir by listening to this week’s podcast with Dr. Ralph Baric. He is known as the “coronavirus hunter.” Dr. Baric has been studying coronaviruses for over three decades.

Our interview with him is a MUST LISTEN! OK, we are biased, but we think Dr. Baric is a brilliant researcher with the experience to answer many of your coronavirus questions. Here is a link to the background on the show. It will air live at 7:00 am EDT this coming Saturday (May 9). You can catch the live audio by going to our host NPR station, WUNC-FM at 7:00 am and listen live.

If you do not want to get up at 7:00 am on Saturday, you can listen to the streaming audio at this link on Monday.  You can also download the mp3 audio file for free on Monday. Should you wish to share the show with a friend you can purchase a CD at this link. We think you will be impressed with the new information you get from Dr. Baric about SARS-CoV-2.

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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.” .
Show 1211: A Conversation With the Coronavirus Hunter
Free - $9.99

Dr. Ralph Baric has been dubbed the coronavirus hunter. He has been studying these pathogens for 35 years. Find out what you should know about SARS-2.

Show 1211: A Conversation With the Coronavirus Hunter
  • Gordon, D. E., et al, "A SARS-CoV-2 protein interaction map reveals targets for drug repurposing," Nature Research, April 30, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2286-9
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