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Fake COVID treatments are circulating. How to spot them and get real medication

Mary Ramsey
The Charlotte Observer (TNS)
There are multiple treatments for COVID-19 that have been approved by or received emergency use authorization from the FDA. Ivermectin has been touted as a treatment for COVID-19, but it is marketed for veterinary use” and intended for animals. (Dreamstime/TNS)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As COVID-19 cases soar around the country, fake treatments continue to linger on the open market, posing a safety risk to those seeking medical care.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a woman arrested in May 2021 at her home for allegedly shipping the supposed remedy drug HAMPL to an undercover agent in New Hampshire pleaded guilty this week, according to federal prosecutors.

There are real, safe treatments available to people who catch COVID-19, and it’s important to make sure you’re taking the real thing rather than a fake medicine.

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Here’s how to avoid getting conned by fake medicines for treating COVID-19 and details on real treatments and how to access them:

“Fraudulent COVID-19 products can come in many varieties, including dietary supplements and other foods, as well as products claiming to be tests, drugs, medical devices, or vaccines,” the Food and Drug Administration stated.

Common fake products caught by the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission over the course of the pandemic, the FDA adds, “include teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver.”

The FDA recommends folks be “suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases” or that market themselves as a “quick fix” or “miracle cure.”

“If it seems too good to be true,” the agency says, “it probably is.”

You should also not take any drugs “marketed for veterinary use,” such as ivermectin, which is intended for animals.

“They may have adverse effects, including serious illness and death when taken by people,” the FDA says.

If you have questions about a treatment, you should contact your doctor or pharmacist. And if you have further questions, you can contact the FDA’s Division of Drug Information by emailing or calling 1-855-543-3784 or 301-796-3400.

There are multiple treatments for COVID-19 that have been approved by or received emergency use authorization from the FDA, including:

— Veklury, also known as remdesivir, an IV antiviral drug that’s FDA-approved “for adults and certain pediatric patients with COVID-19”

— Olumiant, also known as baricitinib, an FDA-approved immune modulator “for certain hospitalized adults with COVID-19”

— Paxlovid and Lagevrio, also known as molnupiravir, two oral antiviral drugs “authorized for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19”

— Monoclonal antibody treatments, “laboratory-made molecules that act as substitute antibodies” that have gotten an emergency use authorization from the FDA “for the treatment, and in some cases prevention (prophylaxis), of COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients”

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact your doctor to get tested and get a prescription for any necessary medications.

If you’re not established with a doctor, you can seek out a “Test to Treat” site comprised of a network of doctor’s offices, pharmacies and clinics that will help you get tested and prescribe medication.

You can find participating locations and secure an appointment using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Test to Treat Locator.

The FDA is also allowing “state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid to eligible patients.” Your pharmacist will need to access your medical records and get a list of medications that you’re taking in order to prescribe Paxlovid, the FDA notes.

It’s important to seek out treatment as soon as you start to feel sick, DHHS emphasizes because you need to start taking oral COVID-19 medications “within 5 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms” in order for the medicine to be effective.