Kim DeRhodes is a pharmacist with Novant Health Integrative Medicine.
The internet is full of information about potential treatments for COVID-19, both prescription drugs and dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbs. There is no “game-changing” treatment available at this time, and, in fact, many of the suggested “treatments” can be dangerous.
Several drugs and supplements have shown promise and may be useful against this disease, but at this early stage, researchers do not have scientific proof of efficacy for any treatment of COVID-19.
Here’s a look at the potential treatment options being discussed today focusing on what we know, and more importantly, what isn’t known, in order to keep you safe.
This antiviral drug, which is not currently approved for use in the U.S., has shown the greatest promise. It was shown to reduce incidence of a previous coronavirus called MERS. Clinical trials are underway in China and elsewhere to see how it works on the COVID-19 strain. As with any antiviral drug, the earlier you give it the better. So it may well be that patients who are given treatment earlier in the course of the disease will do better.
Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine
Much has been discussed about the potential use of these drugs against COVID-19 based on a small study conducted in France. The study itself had flaws, and essential cases were excluded. This makes scientists and physicians question the results of the study. In addition, there have been reports of a heart condition called cardiomyopathy developing in critically ill COVID-19 patients, and hydroxychloroquine, though relatively safe, has been known to cause cardiotoxicity.
More definitive data should emerge shortly but, for now, routine use of this drug is not recommended for the treatment of the coronavirus. Bottom line: If it's prescribed by an infectious disease specialist, that's fine. But under no circumstances should you seek out the drug and start taking it on your own.
Vitamins, herbs and supplements
In China, many of the COVID-19 patients were treated with traditional Chinese medicine, using a blend of Chinese herbs. There is no scientific evidence that any supplement has helped against this novel coronavirus, and some products that are safe to use in other situations, such as colds and flu, may not be safe to use in the case of COVID-19. Evidence is lacking at this point.
If you are interested in generally boosting your immune system, you may try:
- Vitamin C, a typical daily dose is roughly 500 mg to 3,000 mg a day
- Vitamin A, a typical daily dose is 5,000 units of betacarotene or mixed carotenoids. Do not take if you smoke or smoked in the past.
- Melatonin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties
- Fresh garlic
Self-care is still best
This is a new virus, and healthcare professionals have a lot to learn about it. This much is known: Basic self-care can help decrease the risk of infection illness. This includes:
- A good night’s sleep of at least seven to eight hours a night
- Managing your stress through exercise, meditation, breathing exercises and guided imagery
- Eating well by choosing brightly colored fruits and vegetables every day
- Washing your hands frequently
- Practicing social distancing
If you are considering any prescription medications or supplements for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19, it is important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also contact Novant Health Integrative Medicine and schedule a video visit with one of our providers. Let the experts help you make the right choices.
Keep up with the latest on COVID-19.
Novant Health team members are on the frontlines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Novant Health Foundation has established a new fund dedicated to supporting our teams, as well as the overall response to the pandemic. Contributions will support team members and help fund testing and medication to support patient care, as well as medical supplies. To donate, click here.