BC health officials warn of "unproven" coronavirus treatment and medications

Mar 27 2020, 3:19 pm

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, health officials in BC have now issued a warning about the use of treatments and medications which they say are “unproven.”

The warning comes in the form of a joint statement, issued by the College of Pharmacists of BC, College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, and BC College of Nursing Professionals.

“Although all British Columbians are hopeful a cure or treatment can be found quickly, it is critical to note that at this time, a proven treatment for COVID-19 does not exist,” the group states.

Such treatment claims, they add, may include, but are not limited to the following drugs:

  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Chloroquine
  • Aazithromycin
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra)
  • Colchicine

“Public health officials continue to emphasize that the situation involving COVID-19 is going to become even more acute in the coming weeks,” the group states. “More British Columbians will become infected and tragically, more may die from this virus.”

This, they said,  “means the well-intentioned pressure from patients, fellow healthcare workers, and even friends and family to help access these medications, will undoubtedly increase.”

The group adds that those in the healthcare field “all have a responsibility to their patients  and to their profession to focus only on evidence-based care and not yield to patient pressure around unproven and potentially dangerous uses of existing medications.”

Additionally, there are other “unintended consequences of the demand for these unproven treatments,” the group states. Even before coronavirus was formally declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Canada was already facing shortages and, in some cases, supply outages of a number of medications.

Now, “due to these recent COVID-19 claims involving hydroxychloroquine in particular, there has been a growth in demand and even more acute shortages.”

As a result, there can be “serious potential consequences for patients who need this medication for other conditions including Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Information around coronavirus is “rapidly evolving and new recommendations and evidence may become available with time,” the group said.

And “given the critical role health professionals play in ensuring the appropriate distribution of medications, all must assist in ensuring that care decisions are based solely on the most current evidence available.”

The group notes that this statement follows another recent statement from the BC Centre for DiseaseControl, (BCCDC) regarding unproven therapies for coronavirus.

In that statement, the BCCDC says “it is important to understand that there are potential harms to the patient, risks to our understanding of what is truly a beneficial treatment or not, and depleting access to therapies known to be helpful or essential in other disease states.”

For these reasons, it adds, “the use of unproven therapies for COVID-19 is not recommended outside clinical trials.”

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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