This is part of the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign around the coronavirus, and specifically its efforts to spread false or misleading health information related to COVID-19, its prevention, and its treatment. See similar false claims like that COVID-19 can be cured with saline solution, that treatment for COVID-19 will lead to forced vaccination, and that handwashing is useless for preventing the spread of the virus. False and misleading health claims are the most dangerous and irresponsible aspect of coronavirus-related disinformation, as they can have a direct impact on people’s health and even their lives.
In an egregious display of irresponsibility, this article argues that a treatment for another disease – which has not been tested for use against COVID-19 and is not recommended by health authorities, including the WHO and the European Medicine Agency – should be made available to the public without further research or testing. The article actively tries to cast doubt on medical and scientific expertise, asking leading questions like “Do ‘experts’ really think the world has the luxury of waiting for months or even years for their controlled lab studies?” and “In the absence of better solutions…don’t we owe humanity to at least try? What do we have to lose?”
According to the World Health Organisation, “no pharmaceutical products have yet been shown to be safe and effective for the treatment of COVID-19.” In a statement, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We call on individuals and countries to refrain from using therapeutics that have not been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19. The history of medicine is strewn with examples of drugs that worked on paper, or in a test tube, but didn't work in humans or were actually harmful. We must follow the evidence. There are no short-cuts.”
On 20 March, the WHO announced a major global trial called SOLIDARITY to test four potential treatments for COVID-19, including the malaria medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. The SOLIDARITY trial will involve 45 countries and is designed to “dramatically cut the time needed to generate robust evidence about what drugs work.”
Chloroquine has recently garnered public attention after a small study of 36 COVID-19 patients in France demonstrated initially promising results; however, infectious disease experts have said the findings are not conclusive and require further study. Importantly, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can have serious side effects, especially at high doses or when combined with other medicines. They should not be used without a prescription and without medical supervision.
Experts and health authorities, including the WHO and the European Medicine Agency, have also expressed concern that premature use of these drugs for COVID-19 may create dangerous shortages for patients who need them for other serious conditions, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The WHO advises against “unnecessary stockpiling and the creation of shortages of approved medicines that are required to treat other diseases”.
See the WHO’s mythbusting page about false COVID-19 health advice for more information.