Risks of Covid-19 treatment drugs with unknown origin
When the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Vietnam, drugs for treating Covid-19 were advertised widely on social networks.
A customer receives medicines that he ordered online. (Photo: SGGP)
Over the past time, experts have continuously warned that it is extremely dangerous for people to arbitrarily use drugs of unknown origin without a doctor’s prescription.
Maze of Covid-19 treatment drugs
As his relative is infected with Covid-19 and under home treatment, Do Hung Dung, a resident in Phu Nhuan District of HCMC, sought information about drugs for treating Covid-19 on the Internet. Contacting a seller, he was introduced to three types of drugs for Covid-19 treatment and prevention originating from Russia. All of them were Arbidol drugs but in different colors, including the blue box for people who want to prevent Covid-19 and children priced at VND380,000 per box of 10 tablets, the red box for F0, F1, and F2 cases priced at VND480,000 per box of 10 tablets, and the green box for patients with severe Covid-19 priced at VND4.2 million per box of 40 tablets.
“The seller pledges that his products are authentic hand-carried goods from Russia, with efficacy in preventing and treating Covid-19 licensed by the Ministry of Health of Russian Federation. However, I am wondering whether to buy it or not because online advertisements are not completely trustworthy," said Dung.
He said that on social networks, many accounts were selling this type of Covid-19 treatment drug. With the keyword Russian Covid-19 treatment drug, the search results show hundreds of Facebook pages selling hand-carried goods from Russia that sell Arbidol drugs.
A Facebook account named H&G Hospital Online uses praise about this Covid-19 treatment drug. This account wrote that when being infected with moderately severe Covid-19, the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation instructs patients under home treatment to use antiviral drugs. Even in the hospital, doctors give this medicine to Covid-19 patients when their conditions become severe.
Three drugs include Areplivir, Coronavir, and Avifavir but all have the same ingredient as Favipiravir or Avigan, which was first developed to fight Ebola, Nipah, and Zika.
This Facebook account also advises patients to take it as soon as they have a positive result or certain signs that they have contracted with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The drug is only used for treatment, not for prevention. The principle of drug action of the drug is to inhibit the rapid growth of the coronavirus in the body's cells so that the immune system can quickly beat a small number of viruses.
“Take 16 tablets on the first day. From the second to the tenth day, take six tablets. The total course of treatment is to take 70 tablets. "Most Vietnamese people infected with Covid-19 in Russia since November 2020 have had to take this drug," this account affirmed.
On the group named Specializing in Russian hand-carried goods with 5,000 members, many other Facebook accounts also introduce that Arbidol is the drug used by Russia for Covid-19 treatment.
An account named Chuyen TN advertises that he sells three types of Arbidol for Covid-19 prevention and treatment for both adults and children. Meanwhile, Facebook account Le KL introduces Arbidol drugs as follows "Red for F1 and F2, and blue for Covid-19 prevention. Delivery nationwide.”
Another seller instructs to take one tablet per day within 10-14 days if people want to prevent and fight Covid-19 when being exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. When they are not exposed to the virus but want prevention against it, take two tablets a week for three weeks. If infected with Covid-19, take four tablets a day for six hours apart within 7-10 days.
Although each seller advertises Arbidol drugs differently, in general, the uses of Arbidol drugs are advertised as helping to increase resistance, prevent and inhibit coronavirus. Besides the coronavirus, Arbidol drugs are also effective against several other viruses, such as influenza A, influenza B, and H5N1.
Dangerous if used indiscriminately
Dr. Truong Huu Khanh, Infectious Disease Specialist of HCMC Children's Hospital 1, said that it is extremely dangerous that people arbitrarily use drugs to treat Covid-19. Recently, he has received many questions for advice on the use of Arbidol.
He warned that the use of anti-inflammatory and antiviral drugs requires a doctor's prescription because the drug has many side effects. Depending on each specific case, the doctor will have instructions for use or contraindications. If people use the drug arbitrarily, it will only get worse.
As for taking medicine to prevent Covid-19, according to Dr. Khanh, it is a trick for sellers to sell goods. “There are currently only vaccines to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Only vaccines can help us prevent and reduce the aggravating symptoms of Covid-19," said Dr. Khanh.
According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), Vietnam currently includes a number of drugs that have been recognized worldwide in the Covid-19 treatment regimen. Three antiviral drugs included in the guidelines are Remdesivir for patients with moderate and severe symptoms, Favipiravir for asymptomatic patients and patients with mild to moderate symptoms, and Molnupiravir for patients with mild symptoms.
Assoc. Prof-Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, Director of the Medical Examination and Treatment Management Department under the MoH, said that these antiviral drugs help reduce the viral load instead of killing the virus. Especially, Molnupiravir is not prescribed for pregnant women in the first three months and women planning to become pregnant.
The use of different drugs for Covid-19 treatment must be controlled by medical workers for proper application on each specific case, said Assoc. Prof-Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue.
From August this year to now, authorities have continuously uncovered and seized thousands of boxes of Covid-19 treatment drugs smuggled into Vietnam via hand-carrying. Experts also recommend that people should not arbitrarily seek and hoard drugs used in Covid-19 treatment because, without the guidance of a doctor, it can lead to unpredictable consequences. Each case of Covid-19 will have a different level of disease and different physical conditions, so it is necessary to be prescribed by a doctor about the appropriate dose and type of medication.
The Ministry of Health on Wednesday added three antiviral drugs - Molnupiravir 400 mg, remdesivir and favipiravir to its latest COVID-19 treatment protocol.