Betadine antiseptic being ingested, despite little-to-no evidence it treats COVID-19

Coronavirus

(KXAN) — Months after animal dewormer ivermectin surged as an unproven and non-FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment, another drug’s being touted by some anti-vaccine corners of the internet as a coronavirus therapeutic.

It’s called Betadine. While it’s a common topical antiseptic, the iodine is not intended to be ingested. However, that’s not stopping people from doing it, Forbes reports. Claims of its use are slowly gaining traction on social media, despite, as with ivermectin, little to no evidence Betadine and its generic form can treat COVID-19.

Betadine is approved for cleaning skin wounds and sometimes for douching. A drug store product is sold with a 0.5% solution intended as a sore throat gargle, and a 10% solution is also sold for skin cleaning. Neither product is intended to be swallowed.

Forbes explains while some studies of Betadine for COVID-19 treatment exist, the findings come with some critical asterisks. One Rutgers University study tested generic povidone iodine for COVID-19 treatment and while some potential benefits exist, the results were found in an artificial environment and were found to have damaging effects on skin cells. Another 2020 study found some potential benefits, but researchers of both studies say more research is needed.

Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin says Betadine was not made for treating COVID-19.

“Betadine is not designed as a cleaning product to clean surfaces to rid them of the virus, and its not designed or proven to be effective for eliminating the virus in your mouth or respiratory tract at all,” said Pharmacist Resident Fuller Currie.

Avrio Health, Betadine’s manufacturer, released guidelines for Betadine use, saying in part:

“Betadine® Antiseptic First Aid products have not been approved to treat coronavirus. Betadine® Antiseptic First Aid products should only be used to help prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns. Betadine Antiseptic products have not been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 or any other viruses.”

Avrio Health

Avrio says its warnings apply to both its topical and throat-gargle products. The company says those who ingest more than a small amount should call a poison control center immediately. Infectious disease specialist Judy Stone says symptoms of Betadine or povidone iodine poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, acidosis and even death.

The Texas Department of State Health Services told KXAN as of Wednesday, Sept. 15, no calls have been made to poison control about Betadine.

The CDC urges Americans the currently available COVID-19 vaccines — Pfizer (now fully FDA-approved), Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — are safe and effective. Booster shots are currently underway and under discussion. While vaccines do not ensure you won’t become infected with COVID-19, they have significant real-world data confirming they prevent severe illness and hospitalization.

Follow KXAN’s Russell Falcon on Twitter @RussellFalcon for more coronavirus updates.

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