Medical trials for President Trump's favorite coronavirus "prevention" method, hydroxychloroquine, still haven’t turned up many positive results to warrant his enthusiasm. But he's not the only world leader who's been promoting an unproven treatment.
Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina demonstrated the safety of his country’s new herbal remedy in the most convincing way possible: by taking a sip for the cameras — like a quack doctor at a traveling medicine show. The beverage, named COVID-Organics, is brewed from a plant that’s used to make a treatment for malaria. When Rajoelina announced the "remedy" in late April, it hadn’t undergone any clinical testing, and according to a presidential aide, less than 20 people had tried it. Nevertheless, Rajoelina claims it works in seven days.
All over the world, herbal remedies, elixirs, and tonics are being concocted to supposedly treat or prevent COVID-19. An archbishop in Cameroon is claiming he discovered an herbal remedy that’s cured every person who’s taken it, prompting the Cameroonian government to investigate. A post claiming that an ancient Sri Lankan herbal remedy will cure coronavirus has been debunked — the most it might do is reduce a fever.
The rush of so-called cures isn’t unique to this pandemic.
“If you look back at the history of quackery, we've seen all of this before,” says medical historian Caroline Rance. “It's just perhaps that now that everybody is focusing on this one big issue, the quackery has come out of the woodwork a lot more. You might normally see quack remedies being promoted for all kinds of different conditions. But now everybody's focusing on COVID. I think it's come a lot more into the limelight.”
A coronavirus vaccine could be years away, and whenever it’s ready, it’ll inevitably create a whole new host of misinformation. Until then, while the public’s patience wears thin, the steady influx of so-called cures will very likely continue. What might change is how increasingly willing people are to give them a shot.
Cover: COVID-Organics is brewed from a plant that is used to make a treatment for malaria. It is one of the unproven coronavirus cures being promoted. (VICE News Tonight/VICE TV)
This article originally appeared on VICE US.