Recommendations from reputable medical groups, such as the CDC, should serve as the primary source for individuals to protect themselves, according to a poster presented at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists' (ASHP) virtual 2020 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition.

The objective of the study was to increase awareness among pharmacists about products for which unfounded claims have been made regarding prevention of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) infections.

The researchers searched the internet in April 2020 via Google using key words, such as “weird treatments for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)” and repeated the process in May and October with more than 100,000,000 results. Products identified through the search were categorized by item type, such as food, medicine, herbal remedy, nonmedical chemical product, and procedure, according to the study authors.

Following the search, the products were graded based on a basic novel scale of “possibly effective with evidence,” “possibly effective without evidence,” “unlikely to be effective,” as well as the recommendation source, such as a medical professional, self-described healer, or recognized or certified healer. In the interest of space, at least 1 website is provided for each product, but several websites may have been accessed for some items to get a complete profile.

The results revealed that millions of websites were identified, but many just contained information regarding COVID-19 without mentioning products for prevention or cure. Products, including lemon, honey, garlic, cold exposure, and black pepper were analyzed, but did not reach the “possibly effective with evidence” grade. However, betadine, Crest Pro Health, hydrogen peroxide mouthwash, and vitamin D were the only few to be graded as “possibly effective without evidence.”

Even with these grades, the searches found many of the products being labeled as a “moderate risk of harm” or “high risk of harm.” Further, the claims were split between being considered a “cure” or “prevention” for COVID-19.

The study authors concluded that pharmacists should reinforce evidence-based methods of protection and redirect misinformed individuals to ensure proper methods are taken by the public to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19. To serve as public educators, pharmacists must be aware of the inappropriate products being considered for COVID-19 treatments.

Steinberg M. Toothpaste, alcohol, and camel urine: unfounded preventions and treatments for COVID-19 and the pharmacist role in educating the public. Poster presented at American Society of Health-System Pharmacists' virtual 2020 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition; December 6-10, 2020. Accessed December 10, 2020.