Why you shouldn’t go looking for COVID-19 medicines
With the Australian Border Force reporting increased levels of illegally imported substances believed to protect against COVID-19, NPS MedicineWise is reminding Australians that there are no medicines that have been shown to protect you from, or treat COVID-19 unless you are in intensive care in the hospital.
Dr Anna Samecki, NPS MedicineWise medical adviser and GP says people should not ask for or try to obtain medicines for COVID-19.
“All medicines come with risks, and taking medicines in the belief they will help prevent or treat COVID-19 can be downright dangerous,” says Dr Samecki.
“Also, obtaining medicines from the internet can add extra risks. Of course, many websites selling medicines are legitimate businesses, but many others are not legitimate and are selling out-of-date, poor quality, contaminated or even fake medicines that put your health at risk,” she says.
An NPS MedicineWise consumer COVID-19 information hub includes information about medicines investigated for use against COVID-19, including:
- Hydroxychloroquine: A medicine used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. There is no reliable evidence that hydroxychloroquine can prevent or treat COVID-19, and some studies found that it may even make things worse. If used incorrectly (at high doses or for long periods of time), hydroxychloroquine can be toxic to the heart (leading to a heart attack or heart failure), to the eyes (leading to irreversible damage), and to blood sugar levels (leading to severely low blood sugar).
- Remdesivir: An antiviral medicine that can help some people in hospital with severe COVID-19 recover faster but does not help people with milder COVID-19.
- Dexamethasone: A medicine that reduces inflammation and is used to treat asthma, arthritis and other diseases. It reduces the risk of dying for people in hospital with serious COVID-19 that need help to breathe. It does not help people with less severe COVID-19 and may even make things worse.
- Ephedra, vitamin D and other complementary medicines: There are no medicines that have been found to be effective against COVID-19 outside of intensive care.
“Remember that all medicines, including complementary and over-the-counter medicines, can have side effects and may interact with other medicines you are taking,” says Dr Samecki.
“This is why it is important to speak to your health professional (like your doctor, pharmacist or nurse) before taking new medicines, including to prevent or treat COVID-19. They are best placed to advise you on how to stay healthy,” she says.
For more information on medicines and COVID-19, go to nps.org.au/coronavirus.
If you have questions about your medicines, you can call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9 am–5 pm AET (excluding public holidays).