Health workers wearing protective gear wait to collect swab samples from residents to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Colombo on December 30, 2020. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP)

Supplement falsely touted as Covid-19 treatment in Sri Lanka is a 'scam', health experts say

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Facebook posts shared thousands of times in Sri Lanka promote a food supplement as a Covid-19 treatment, claiming the remedy cured patients at a local hospital. The claim is false: health experts warned the purported treatment was a "scam". The hospital's director told AFP it had "no involvement" with the drug.

The claim was published in this Facebook post on May 6, 2021. It has been shared more than 13,000 times.

“This medicine produced using several local herbs will prevent fatalities in infected patients experiencing severe conditions!” it reads. “The doctor assures, even if a patient is infected, it will prevent the virus from infecting the lungs and worsening the condition!"

The post features various photos from a promotional leaflet for MeGha Primal Intake, which is marketed as a "food supplement". The leaflet claims the drug is "the only product in the world backed by science that can be given to Covid 19 positive patients".

Screenshot of the Facebook post captured on May 06, 2021

In the post's first image, the Sinhala-language text reads: “Corona that shook the whole world kneels in Karapitiya".

Karapitiya is a town in southern Sri Lanka. It is home to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, which serves as a Covid-19 treatment centre.

Sri Lanka --  population 21 million -- has recorded more than 125,900 Covid-19 cases, according to an AFP tally on May 10, 2021.

The island nation became the latest of India's neighbours to seal its borders with the South Asian giant on May 6, 2021, as it battled a record surge.

Identical claims about the purported Covid-19 remedy were made on Facebook here and here and on YouTube here and here.

The claim is false. Health experts have said the purported supplement is not proven to be a safe and effective treatment for Covid-19.

'Complete fabrication'

Dr. Priyantha Jeewarathna, director of Karapitiya Hospital, told AFP the hospital had not used the supplement to treat Covid-19 patients.

He said it would take legal action against people propagating the misleading claim.

“It is a complete fabrication," he said. "Karapitiya Hospital has no involvement with the said drug or its producers and neither have they approached the hospital authorities with regard to administering it to Covid-19 positive patients".

Dr. Asanka Srimal Migelheva, an emergency medicine consultant at the same hospital, said in a Facebook post that the drug was "not a product of the Karapitiya Hospital".

'Scam drug'

Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama,  a senior consultant physician at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Colombo, said the promotion of the purported drug was a "scam". 

“A few days ago, we saw claims that a doctor from the Karapitiya hospital discovered a drug for Covid-19. But it is a complete lie. Don't fall prey to these claims and waste your money,” he told reporters on May 6, 2021.

“Moreover, because of actions such as these, the tried and tested methods used to prevent the disease -- that have been proven effective -- are forgotten by people who instead chase these "cure" scams.”

Hoax 'cures'

Social media posts touting unproven Covid-19 "cures" have previously circulated in Sri Lanka. 

In December, AFP debunked claims by a faith healer that drinking a syrup containing coriander seeds, nutmeg and ginger was a "miracle cure" for Covid-19. 

The WHO has compiled information here which debunks misleading claims about purported coronavirus “cures”. 

Scientists have tested multiple possible treatments for Covid-19 but as of May 10, 2021 there is no "cure" for the disease.

Millions of people around the world have received Covid-19 vaccines proven to reduce the chances of infection, serious illness and death from the disease.