On Tuesday (April 2020), India Today stirred controversy by sharing prescription medicines for the general public for the treatment of Coronavirus infection at home.
In an article titled, “How to treat yourself at home if you have Covid-19? Medical experts share tips”, India Today cited one Canada-based infectious disease physician named Dr Zain Chagla to urge people to ‘self-medicate’ in the face of the Coronavirus crisis. The article suggested a list of medicines that are used in the treatment of Covid-19, but which can trigger dangerous side effects if administered without medical supervision.
One of the medications involved inhaling 2 puffs of Budesonide (steroid) twice a day if the oxygen saturation level was above 92%. Citing Zain Chagla, India Today wrote that Dexamethasone (steroid) 6 mg must be taken daily for 10 days if oxygen saturation level dropped below 92%. India Today also cited Lt. Gen Dr Ved Chaturvedi of the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Dr Vikramjeet Singh of Aakash Healthcare but unlike Dr Zain Chagla, they did not prescribe any medicine.
Lt. Gen Dr Chaturvedi and Dr Singh said that there is a scarcity of hospital beds and a Coronavirus patient can choose home isolation over hospitalisation, provided the symptoms range from mild to moderate. However, India Today went a step ahead and quoted Dr Zain Chagla to list the names of even steroidal medicines as a quick fix for Coronavirus infection. Administering prescription medicines without considering the medical history of a patient can be fatal and life-threatening. The irresponsible reporting by India Today sets a dangerous precedent for the general public, who often get carried away with information they read online.
Both Budesonide and Dexamethasone must be taken only under medical supervision. The same list of medication was also shared yesterday by the controversial physician, Dr Kafeel Khan. After being called out on social media, he posted another tweet saying that Dexamethasone should only be consumed under trained medical supervision. But by then, it was too late and the tweet had received hundreds of retweets and thousands of ‘likes’. As a responsible media platform, we urge people to consult a physician before following any recommendation on social media.