Can Asthma Inhaler Cure COVID-19?

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A YouTube video (see below) has gone viral online with claims that budesonide; a steroid used in asthma patients, can treat COVID-19. The 31-minute interview that has over 3 million views so far, features one Dr Richard Barlett from the United States, who touts the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.

Background

Budesonide is a corticosteroid or steroid (cortisone-like medicine). It works by preventing inflammation (swelling) in the lungs, which makes asthma attacks less severe. Inhaled budesonide may be used with other asthma medicines such as bronchodilators, which are also used to open up narrowed breathing passages in the lungs.

COVID-19, which has now infected over 14 million people globally (and still counting) affects the respiratory tract, which can cause your lungs and airways to swell and become inflamed.

Verification

A search for the keywords ’budesonide and COVID-19’ shows that the Philippine Department of Health dismissed the claim on budesonide as fake news on July 16, stating that budesonide is a treatment used for asthma, and not a cure for COVID-19 and no study yet proves it is effective against COVID-19.

The European Respiratory Journal had published a study earlier on in May stating, “There is no evidence on benefits or harms of inhaled steroids in COVID-19. It is essential that epidemiological studies of COVID-19 include detailed information on comorbidities and prior medication to help answer this question.”

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers are collaborating with colleagues at the University of Oxford on a UK clinical trial to test common asthma inhalers as a treatment for COVID-19 infection.

University of Oxford researchers recently released promising preliminary results from a separate Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial of another corticosteroid called dexamethasonein treating COVID-19.  The drug, which is taken by mouth rather than inhaled, is used to treat a range of inflammatory-related conditions including allergies, arthritis and severe asthma. Early data from the trial reported that the drug reduced deaths by one-third among COVID-19 patients who were on ventilators in intensive care units.

However, as of July 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it is in the process of updating treatment guidelines to include dexamethasone and other steroids as they are still under assessment.

Verdict

The claim that budesonide can be used as a treatment for COVID-19 is misleading.

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Peris Gachahi

Peris Gachahi is a reporter at Africa Uncensored.She is passionate about human interest stories told through in-depth documentaries, data stories and digital storytelling.