The Italian miracle medicine that wasn't

Some claim it could cure COVID-19. Here's the story of the controversy surrounding the antiviral drug Avigan in Italy.

Why is everyone talking about Avigan?

Cristiano Aresu became the focus of attention when he claimed that he found the cure for coronavirus. The Italian man, living in Japan, claims to hold a pharmacy degree. The video he posted that points to Avigan, an antiviral drug, as a cure, was widely commented on in the country's media, as well as on social media. A few days later, the Italian Medicines Agency announced that they’ve given the green light to test the drug Avigan. It was discovered that Cristiano Aresu is neither a pharmacist or a health professional. He imports Japanese products to Italy. An Italian news website even found a video where Cristiano Aresu introduces himself as an "orthopedic doctor" during an audition.

“It's an antiviral drug. An antiviral drug that we've known about for a long time now, and that is used for other viruses. Not specifically for the coronavirus. And with regard to this disease, we don't have any concrete results. We have no proof that it works.What's happening in Italy is that because of the strong pressure of public opinion, which believes this antiviral drug can work against coronavirus, our medicines agency has given the green light to run tests. So some hospitals are going to test this drug. Fortunately, if a drug doesn't work, we’ll know very quickly. We mustn't delude ourselves. To fight this epidemic, we must first stop the contamination,” epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Pier Luigi Lopalco tells Brut.

What can we do?

The best way to help prevent the disease is to follow any stay-at-home orders or advisories in place. There are also programs like Invisible Hands where you can volunteer to pick up groceries and prescriptions for the elderly while they self-quarantine for protection. Health professionals are asking citizens to stop buying medical masks as the mass stockpiling of these devices are preventing medical workers from having the proper supplies. If you prematurely stockpiled gloves and masks, consider donating them to your local hospitals.