Physicians, compounding pharmacies touting unproven drug as COVID-19 treatment

More than 30 medical practices and compounding pharmacies have made claims about the drug thymosin alpha-1 as a treatment for COVID-19 that are unproven, an NPR investigation found.

The drug is not FDA approved for any medical treatment, though it has been studied as a potential treatment for a host of conditions, including hepatitis B and some cancers. The FDA granted the drug orphan drug designation to offer incentive to research it, but it has not been approved for treating any condition.

The drug has became available in the U.S. through compounding pharmacies, small drug manufacturers that develop and sell customized medications that are not assessed by the FDA.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, medical practices and compounding pharmacies in a dozen states have been promoting thymosin alpha-1 as a COVID-19 treatment. Dominique Fradin-Read, MD, began making unproven claims about the drug in April, saying in an Instagram Live session, that it was "one of the best ways to prevent and fight COVID-19."

Dr. Fradin-Read owns VitaLifeMD, a medical practice in Los Angeles. She told NPR that she believes the drug is safe and effective, but the publication found that social media posts about the drug were removed after its inquiries.

In another instance, Ryan Smith, a leader of compounding pharmacy Tailor Made Compounding, pitched thymosin alpha-1 as a treatment for COVID-19, Lyme disease and "general anti-aging" in an online presentation to healthcare providers in early March, NPR reports. He also claimed the drug was FDA approved.

Most of the medical practices promoting the drug are not infectious disease-focused, and some charge as much as $400 for a "10-syringe set" of the drug.

"Sometimes it's the primary care physician or doctors in general who are major sources of misinformation," said Leigh Turner, PhD, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics, told NPR.

Read the full article here.

More articles on public health:
CDC-recommended vaccines should be mandatory for healthcare personnel, infectious disease experts say
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Oct. 1
24 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Oct. 1


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