CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is promoting a “miracle” medication that he said neutralizes COVID-19 with no side effects, a claim doctors said was not backed by science.
Maduro on Sunday presented the drug Carvativir, an oral solution he said was tested on patients in a Caracas hospital and a sports center used as an emergency medical facility.
“It has gone through a period of nine months of study, experimentation, clinical application. On the sick, on the very sick, on people who have been intubated, and we recovered them,” he said, during a televised broadcast on Sunday.
He described the liquid as “miracle drops of Jose Gregorio Hernandez,” a 19th century Venezuelan doctor who was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church last year, without elaborating on the active ingredients.
The information ministry did not reply to a request for further information.
In response, doctors said Carvativir is derived from thyme, an herb that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine but whose effect on coronavirus has not been established.
“The treatment claim for #Carvativir’s brand for #COVID19 is unsubstantiated by any clinical data, but as a #Maduro press-release, it may hit the social media waves for another high of sublingual bread & circus,” tweeted Dr. Francisco Marty, an infectious diseases expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine in a statement late on Monday said Carvativir “has therapeutic potential against coronavirus.”
“Nonetheless, it is prudent to wait for more data from the Carvativir tests … to consider it a candidate for an anti-COVID-19 medication,” reads the statement.
Venezuela is scrambling to obtain access to vaccines amid a global race by countries to inoculate their populations.
It has officially reported some 123,709 COVID-19 cases and 1,148 deaths – figures the opposition and some healthcare workers say understate the impact of the virus in the South American country, whose health system has deteriorated.
Maduro has promised that some 10 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine would arrive soon.
Reporting by Corina Pons, Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera, writing by Luc Cohen, Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Nick Zieminski