Dr. Rick Bright, who led the U.S. agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, said that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine https://t.co/WHwaOgPe8q
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 23, 2020
Misinformation has been spreading like wildfire during the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how a lot of general false information was spreading, through non-medical news sources regarding things like homemade ways to test for COVID-19 and how 5G networks were supposedly spreading the virus.
However, one aspect about the misinformation that I did not mention was the idea of certain “miracle” drugs and the problems this misinformation is creating for many people.
The most popular miracle drug that has been promoted by many, including President Donald Trump is called “hydroxychloroquine,” which is an immunosuppressive and anti-parasite drug, commonly used to treat malaria, lupus and arthritis. However, quite a few people believe it can be used to treat and possibly even cure COVID-19.
This is not true. There is no miracle cure for COVID-19, and currently there is no vaccine or medication that will magically make it go away. In times of panic, like this pandemic, people are desperate to find answers, which is why so many people are ready to believe this. But this misinformation is having deadly and disastrous consequences for many.
The misinformation regarding hydroxychloroquine caused many people in the United States to buy the medication, causing a low supply in stores. Since it is not proven to work as a cure of any kind for COVID-19, people who are buying it don’t really need it. There are many people who use this medication for autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, and are now having trouble buying it because so many pharmacies are running low. For people with autoimmune diseases, the drug is very effective in lessening the symptoms and is overall extremely helpful. If it sells out and people who need it cannot access it, these people will suffer.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top medical advisor, said the drug has shown an impact on some cases of COVID-19 during testing. However, many other cases do not show an effect.
Due to the uncertainty revolving around the effectiveness of this drug, people should really wait until there is definitive data from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Data from these sources would be much more accurate and would allow people to make more informed decisions regarding their medication — decisions that don’t harm others.
Part of the reason for the popularity of hydroxychloroquine in the U.S. is that many famous people who are not involved in medicine have publicly advertised the drug.
In March, Elon Musk tweeted about it, referencing an inaccurate “academic” paper. Later, news anchors on Fox News, such as Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity began singing the drug’s praises as well. Unsurprisingly, shortly after Fox News reported on hydroxychloroquine, Trump also began mentioning it.
“HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” tweeted Trump on March 21.
For reference, azithromycin is an antibiotic. It will not do much for a viral infection like COVID-19. The National Institute of Health (NIH) specifically says that people should not take these two drugs together to treat COVID-19.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents)…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
We should not be taking medical advice from someone who once claimed windmills caused cancer. Trump has no medical knowledge. In the middle of a pandemic he cut funding to WHO and removed Dr. Rick Bright, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) from his position suspiciously after Bright limited the use of hydroxychloroquine and clashed with Trump on certain medical issues. Trump’s dangerous patterns during this pandemic are not beneficial to this country.
Trump has proven his sheer incompetence and lack of knowledge numerous times just during this pandemic, and something like this is especially dangerous. If people start taking these drug cocktails, they could damage themselves and take this medication away from people who actually need it for conditions the medication is proven to help.
The best thing to do at a time like this is to wait for more reputable information to come out. Not from some man in charge spewing nonsense in the form of a crass tweet. We need to wait for information from a reputable source, such as the CDC, WHO, NIH or another organization that focuses on health care. It seems impossible to wait, but we have to. If we don’t, more people could possibly be harmed.
And yes, maybe in the future there will be some kind of cure. But for now, the cure is not hydroxychloroquine, and we should not be taking this drug without proper scientific evidence. We just have to wait until there is something that is scientifically proven to help.
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Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.