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Buying, taking drug under study for new virus discouraged

By Zhang Zhihao | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-02-01 11:37

People are discouraged from buying and taking an herbal flu medicine that is still in the early stages of research that aims to determine if it is useful in containing the novel coronavirus, following an announcement issued by two medical research institutions on late Friday that triggered irrational purchases overnight.

According to the announcement, a preliminary study shows that Shuanghuanglian Oral Liquid, a common herbal flu medicine, can inhibit the growth of the novel coronavirus that is rampaging China. However, the finding is still in its early stages and will require more clinical trials to be confirmed, said the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the two institutions responsible for the discovery.

The clinical trial will take place at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, as well as the Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hebei province, according to the announcement.

Despite the fact that research is still ongoing, photos of people queuing up at their local pharmacies at night to buy the remedy went viral on Chinese social media. Searching for the medicine on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao, JD and Suning has yielded no results, meaning the product has either sold out or been pulled from the platform.

There is a poultry farm medicine also called Shuanghuanglian, and some consumers reported on social media saying they had bought the wrong drug and urged others not to ingest the one intended for animal use.

Shortly after the announcement on Friday, doubts about the drug's potency against the coronavirus that had claimed 259 lives and infected 11,821 people as of Friday night quickly emerged.

Dingxiang Doctor, a popular health information exchange platform, published an article on Saturday discouraging the use of the oral remedy for viral prevention and cure, citing the lack of clinical evidence to prove the drug's effectiveness.

Moreover, Shuanghuanglian is known to cause many side effects such as skin rashes, itching, vomiting and diarrhea, thus it is not a go-to remedy for the general public, it said. In 2018, the National Medical Products Administration banned the injection of the drug for pregnant women and children below age 4 due to risk of allergies.

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