There are many fake or unproven medical products and methods that claim to diagnose, prevent or cure COVID-19.[1] Fake medicines sold for COVID-19 may not contain the ingredients they claim to contain, and may even contain harmful ingredients.[2][1][3] In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement recommending against taking any medicines in an attempt to treat or cure COVID-19, although research on potential treatment was underway, including the Solidarity trial spearheaded by WHO.[4] The WHO requested member countries to immediately notify them if any fake medicines or other falsified products were discovered.[4] There are also many claims that existing products help against COVID-19, which are spread through rumors online rather than conventional advertising.

Anxiety about COVID-19 makes people more willing to "try anything" that might give them a sense of control of the situation, making them easy targets for scams.[5] Many false claims about measures against COVID-19 have circulated widely on social media, but some have been circulated by text, on YouTube, and even in some mainstream media. Officials advised that before forwarding information, people should think carefully and look it up. Misinformation messages may use scare tactics or other high-pressure rhetoric, claim to have all the facts while others do not, and jump to unusual conclusions. The public was advised to check the information source's source, looking on official websites; some messages have falsely claimed to be from official bodies like UNICEF and government agencies.[5][6][7][8] Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University's medical school, had simpler advice for COVID-19 products: "Anything online, ignore it".[5]

Products which claim to prevent COVID-19 risk giving dangerous false confidence and increasing infection rates.[9] Going out to buy such products may encourage people to break stay-at-home orders, reducing social distancing.[citation needed] Some of the pretend treatments are also poisonous; hundreds of people have died from using fake COVID-19 treatments.[10]

Diagnosis

Medically-approved tests detect either the virus or the antibodies the body makes to fight it off. Government health departments and healthcare providers provide tests to the public.[11] There have been fraudsters offering fake tests; some have offered tests in exchange for money, but others have said the test is free in order to collect information that could later be used for identity theft or medical insurance fraud. Some fraudsters have claimed to be local government health authorities. People have been advised to contact their doctor or genuine local government health authorities for information about getting tested. Fake tests have been offered on social media platforms, by e-mail, and by phone.[12]

Prevention and cure claims

Widely circulated rumours have made many unfounded claims about methods of preventing and curing infection with SARS-CoV-2.[18] Among others:

Disinfection-related methods

Hand cleaning methods

Washing hands with plain soap and water (for ≥20 seconds) is effective at removing SARS-CoV-2. Hand sanitizer is a slightly inferior option for sanitizing hands.[19][20] Neither antibacterial soap[21][22] nor red soap are any more effective than plain soap.

Gargling, nasal rinses, and inhalation

Temperature

A World Health Organization infographic dispelling the myth that hot and humid weather prevents the spread of the virus.

Radiation

UV-C light being used to sterilize equipment in a laboratory. UV-C cannot be used to disinfect people as it can damage the skin and eyes.

Other disinfection-related methods

Protective equipment

Drugs of abuse

semi-space-filling molecular diagram of methanol; a carbon and three hydrogens make a tetrahedrom, and the carbon point of the tetrahedron has an oxygen atom, which in turn is attache at an angle to a hydrogen atom.
Methanol has one carbon atom (dark grey). It is immediately poisonous; a single dose can cause blindness, brain and spinal cord damage, and death.[53] Blackmarket alcoholic drinks may contain methanol.[54]
semi-space-filling molecular diagram of ethanol.
Ethanol has two carbon atoms (dark grey). Ethanol should not be confused with methanol. Ethanol-containing drinks are widely consumed as the main ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Ingestion doesn't prevent COVID-19, and may cause subclinical immunosuppression.[55]

Commercial products

Homeopathic globuli (sugar pills) do not make people immune to COVID-19.

There are many fraudulent and unproven products that are claimed to treat or protect against COVID-19.[1][5]

Colloidal silver is falsely marketed as a cure for COVID-19 infection.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

China officially promotes the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat COVID-19.[85] Many academic papers, such as Shi et al.,[86] have been published trying to establish the effectiveness of various decoctions such as Qingfei Paidu Decoction. Most of the western media hold a skeptical attitude about its effectiveness, despite many positive accounts.[87] There is much ongoing research trying to identify the effective ingredients for treating COVID-19 from inspirations from the TCM methods.

Traditional Persian Medicine

Various studies have been conducted and reported on the effect of traditional persian medicine formulas on the SARS-CoV-2. These treatments have been studied in various clinical trials in Iran.[88][89][90][91][92]

Botanical claims

The poisonous fruit of the datura plant was claimed by some to be effective against coronavirus because it physically resembles the virus's virion.

Religious and magical methods

Zoonosis involves a disease hopping between humans and other animals

Food and drink

A poster for spreading awareness of unproven food claims

Fruit

Herbs and spices

Drinks and frozen foods

A poster explains that alcohol hand-sanitizers kill coronaviruses, but alcoholic drinks do not protect against COVID-19

Meat

Dishes

Exercises

Use of existing medications unproven against COVID-19

See also: COVID-19 misinformation § Treatment misinformation

Veterinary ivermectin, sold alongside an unproven povidone-iodine nasal spray[143] as COVID-19 treatments, at an Amish-run grocery store near McBain, Michigan.

Anti-fraud efforts

References

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