Pepcid for COVID? Demand increases as COVID-19 treatment fizzles

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This June 15, 2020 photo shows a bottle and tablets of Pepcid antacid. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Heartburn medication is in short supply during 2020. A pandemic, economic downturn, and a presidential election had many people with upset stomachs. Others are searching for ways to keep COVID-19 at bay after an initial study reported lower mortality rates among people given the generic version of the drug called famotidine.

Hartford Hospital released a report in the spring about the connection between heartburn medication and a COVID-19 treatment in the spring. But, the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommended against the use of famotidine because of a lack of data. Hartford Hospital said that the results from their study should be considered preliminary.

The New York Times reports that demand for the drug is still high in late 2020.
But it increased before the study was published. The Food and Drug Administration issued a request for the removal of all prescription and over-the-counter ranitidine drugs commonly known as Zantac from the market in April. This was because of a harmful impurity in the drug that increases when stored at higher than room temperatures.

Pepcid maker Johnson & Johnson posted this statement about the increased demand and treating COVID-19 with the medication on their website:

“At Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, we are committed to helping individuals and communities around the world manage the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19. Our teams are actively working to maintain production of high-demand consumer health products, including PEPCID® products.

As COVID-19 strains healthcare resources globally, it is more important than ever to help people stay healthy and out of a stressed healthcare system. We are prioritizing the continued production of high-demand products to maintain supply, all while ensuring the highest level of quality and safety. Use as directed.”

The Trump administration pushed through a $21 million contract to study whether the active ingredient in Pepcid is an effective treatment for Covid-19 in the spring. That gamble eventually fizzled.

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