Russian Cold Medicine Sold Online as Cure for Coronavirus

A Russian drug unlicensed in Great Britain is on saleon eBay UK under false claims it is able to prevent or cure coronavirus infections, the New Statesman writes.

Umifenovir, an antiviral medication developed in Russia in the late 1980s, and sold under the name Arbidol, is widely used in Russia and China as a prophylactic against and treatment for colds – hundreds of millions of doses are sold per year. While there is evidence that it has antiviral properties, its effectiveness has been disputed in some trials, and it is not approved for use in the EU or the U.S., the report says.

Listings on eBay include batches of Arbidol sold under the claim that it offers “potent antiviral activity against the Coronavirus, and that the “Chinese government has confirmed the effectiveness of this drug against Covid-19” (it hasn’t, although very limited tests of Arbidol have been used in conjunction with another drug). Others claim that Arbidol is “active against influenza, sars, [crown emoji]” (Corona is the Latin word for crown).

The scale of Arbidol sales on eBay UK is evident from one listing, which warns that the seller has “only 1,400” packs remaining, the New Statesman writes.

The packages available on eBay in the UK are being sold by individuals in Russia for around £30 ($39) for 20 pills; in Russia, they cost around £1.50 ($1.96) a pack, so the average markup is around 1,900 per cent. It is unlikely that the Arbidol pills being sold are fake, because they are so cheap to buy in Russia that creating fake pills would be more expensive.

Russia’s own Federal Antimonopoly Service says it has received complaints over radio advertising for Arbidol that claims it can be used to treat or prevent Covid-19. Web searches for Arbidol took off sharply as news of the coronavirus epidemic spread.