Academic analysis shows that internet searches to buy chloroquine increased 442%, while searches for hydroxychloroquine jumped 1,389%, after the drugs were touted as potential breakthroughs in treatment COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The results come from a new study by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Harvard, UC San Diego and Johns Hopkins, which used Google’s American search data to analyze how the public was looking for drugs. unproven as the pandemic spread.
On March 16, Tesla CEO Musk said that chloroquine was “perhaps worth considering” in the context of COVID-19 and then tweeted, “Hydroxychloroquine is probably better.”
On March 19, Trump named hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the disease that has claimed the lives of more than 58,300 people in the United States.
Within a week, an Arizona man had died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, which was not the drug variant, believing that it would protect him from the coronavirus. His wife was also hospitalized after taking the substance.
Clinical trials of the drugs have taken place around the world, with mixed results. The researchers stressed that relying on “evidence-based medicine” was essential and reiterated the official health warning that there is no known cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
In the study, the team followed all Google searches in the United States by mentioning the two drugs “chloroquine” or “hydroxychloroquine” in combination with “buy”, “order”, “Walmart”, “eBay” or ” Amazon ”. They focused on between February 1 and March 29.
The team compared the frequency of phrase searches with a time before high-level recommendations, based on historical search trends for the same terms.
It appeared that the first and most significant research spikes had coincided with comments from Musk and Trump, the researchers said, noting that purchase orders for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine remained high after Arizona’s death .
“We estimate that there were more than 200,000 total Google searches to buy these two drugs in just 14 days after highly publicized recommendations,” said study co-author and associate professor Dr. Mark Dredze at Johns Hopkins University. “It could be proof that thousands of Americans were interested in buying these drugs. “
“As someone who has been studying health disinformation for years, we generally believe that disinformation is spread from unreliable health sources, online trolls and robots. It is rare for disinformation about health to come from such prestigious personalities, ”he added.
The results are published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The White House and Tesla were invited to comment on the use of the term endorsement.
A White House official rejected the use of the term, saying Newsweek by e-mail: “From the start, the Democrats and the media have made a coordinated effort to criticize this president for discussing a proven and safe drug throughout this pandemic as a possible life-saving treatment for a person. While some seek the drug to fail, President Trump simply offers a constant message of hope, comfort and optimism while telling Americans to consult their doctors. “
But Oxford graduate student Michael Liu, the study’s first author, said the drugs advertised were “particularly bothersome” for a variety of reasons.
He said, “First, these treatments have inconclusive clinical efficacy. Second, these drugs have potentially fatal side effects. Third, products containing chloroquine such as aquarium cleaner are commercially available without a prescription. “
The author continued, “Even in these unprecedented circumstances, we must still practice evidence-based medicine. This means allowing the usual FDA approval process to run its course so that the public is protected from unnecessary harm. “
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on using face coatings to slow the spread of COVID-19
- The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by infected people and those who have no symptoms.
- Cloth face covers can be made from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC.
- Cloth face covers should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
- Practice safe removal of face covers by not touching the eyes, nose and mouth, and wash your hands immediately after removing the covering.
Advice from the World Health Organization to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; to treat the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after going to the bathroom; when the hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
- Keep a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from anyone who coughs or sneezes.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a folded handkerchief or elbow when you cough or sneeze. Discard the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Avoid close contact with others if you have symptoms.
- Stay home if you don’t feel well, even with mild symptoms such as headache and a runny nose, to avoid the potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
- If you develop severe symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), seek medical advice quickly and contact the local health authorities in advance.
- Note any recent contact with other people and details of the trip to provide to the authorities who can trace and prevent the spread of the disease.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments published by health authorities and follow their advice.
Use of mask and gloves
- Healthy people should only wear a mask if they are caring for a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you cough or sneeze.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Wash your hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, take off and remove masks. Wash your hands after throwing away the mask.
- Do not reuse disposable masks.
- Washing your bare hands regularly is more effective against COVID-19 capture than wearing rubber gloves.
- The COVID-19 virus can still be detected on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.