Is the Chinese herbal medicine Lianhua Qingwen more effective than the Pfizer Paxlovid antiviral combination?!
Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : Lianhua Qingwen Is More Effective Than Paxlovid!
People are sharing a link to a Bloomberg called “Pfizer’s Covid Pill Doesn’t Work For Healthier Patients, Will Focus On Those With higher Risk”, together with this message :
Pfizer scams the world with US$22 billion in sales of Paxlovid to treat Covid.
Now finds that Paxlovid does not work and may cause rebound of disease.
Malaysia has ordered 200,000 doses at a cost of RM500 million –
RM2,500 per dose compared to a few bucks for China’s effective Lian Hwa pills.
Truth : Paxlovid Is More Effective Than Lianhua Qingwen!
This is yet another example of FAKE NEWS created by the Chinese 50 Cent Army (wumao, 五毛) as part of their campaign to support Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : Paxlovid Is Combination Of Two Antiviral Drugs
Pfizer PAXLOVID is an antiviral treatment that consists of two protease inhibitors :
- two 150 mg tablets of Nirmatrelvir (the new protease inhibitor developed by Pfizer)
- one 100 mg tablet of Ritonavir (an old antiviral approved in 1996)
Protease inhibitors work by binding to proteolytic enzymes used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to replicate. This prevents the virus from replicating in the infected cells, stopping the infection and preventing transmission.
Drug combinations like this offer a synergistic effect, above and beyond their individual abilities. In this combination, ritonavir helps to slow down the breakdown of nirmatrelvir, allowing it to remain in the body for a longer period at higher concentrations.
Fact #2 : Paxlovid Was Proven To Work Against COVID-19
Unlike Lianhua Qingwen, Paxlovid underwent and passed an actual randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
In the EPIC-HR clinical trial, Paxlovid was shown to reduce hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 by 88%, compared to placebo.
That statistically significant result was why the US FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for Paxlovid on December 22, 2021.
The EUA allows Paxlovid to be used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 years and older, who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Read more : Did Cornell Name Ivermectin Most Effective Drug vs. Omicron?
Fact #3 : Paxlovid EPIC-HR Trial Involved High-Risk Patients
I should point out that the EPIC-HR trial involved adults who have a high risk of developing severe COVID-19 :
- 18 years and older with a risk factor for developing severe COVID-19, or
- 60 years and older, regardless of chronic medical conditions
All these patients also were not vaccinated against COVID-19, which puts them at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Fact #4 : Paxlovid Not Effective In Normal Risk Patients
After successfully proving that Paxlovid worked for patients who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19, Pfizer tested it on “standard risk patients”.
Their study showed a 51% relative risk reduction of developing severe COVID-19, which was not statistically significant.
That was why Pfizer halted further enrolment in its Paxlovid trial for “standard risk patients”, which are people who do not have co-morbidities – health conditions that put them at risk of developing severe COVID-19.
This “failure” actually shows the value of running clinical tests, before approving any drug. Unlike Paxlovid though, Lianhua Qingwen did not undergo any clinical trial to prove that it can treat or prevent COVID-19.
Fact #5 : Lianhua Qingwen Not Proven To Work Against COVID-19
Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟) has been heavily promoted by the Chinese government and the Chinese 50 Cent Army (wumao, 五毛), leading to massive sales in the global Chinese diaspora.
It then gained oversized importance when both Hong Kong and Shanghai distributed boxes of these capsules to help stave off the surge of COVID-19 in both cities.
Yet, the mass distribution of Lianhua Qingwen has done nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19 in both cities.
That’s because, unlike Paxlovid, there never was any evidence that Lianhua Qingwen can treat or prevent COVID-19.
Its main “call to fame” was a small Chinese study conducted early during the pandemic, which showed that it had only a modest effect on symptom recovery :
- time to recover from fever : 2 days, instead of 3 days
- time to recover from fatigue : 3 days, instead of 6 days
- time to recover from coughing : 7 days, instead of 10 days
There was NO DIFFERENCE in the viral load, or the risk of developing severe COVID-19.
In other words – Lianhua Qingwen only helped to reduce symptoms, and was no different from taking over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol.
Read more : Did US NCBI Confirm Lianhua Qingwen Treats COVID-19?
Fact #6 : Lianhua Qingwen Should Not Be Taken To Prevent COVID-19
Official Chinese media outlets like CGTN and China Daily have falsely claimed that that Lianhua Qingwen was “proven effective for the treatment of COVID-19” and that it was “approved to treat [COVID-19] virus”.
However, Lianhua Qingwen cannot prevent COVID-19, and should not be taken on a long-term basis to prevent it, due to potential side effects.
The medicine could cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and rash.
Fang Bangjiang, doctor from Long Hua Hospital of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said that Lianhua Qingwen has complex ingredients and is mainly suitable for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms of fever and pneumonia but unsuitable for prevention.
Its ingredients will affect the renal system.
Fact #7 : Chinese Official Admits Lianhua Qingwen Cannot Kill Coronavirus
When Chinese Deputy Consul General in Vancouver, Kong Weiwei, was confronted about these claims, he said that people should be “mature enough” to do their own research and understand that Lianhua Qingwen cannot kill the COVID-19 virus :
They’re not babies. We don’t want to be like a nanny telling every one of them that these [Lianhua Qingwen capsules] cannot kill the virus.
Read more : Lianhua Qingwen Finally Tumbles Over Efficacy Concerns!
Fact #8 : Singapore HSA Warns Against Lianhua Qingwen Claims
The Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) continues to warn the public not to believe the many misleading claims made about Lianhua Qingwen’s ability to treat or prevent COVID-19.
To date, there is no scientific evidence from randomised clinical trials to show that any herbal product, including Lianhua Qingwen products, can be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.
All herbal products formulated for common cold and flu, including CPM, should only be used to manage symptoms such as headache, runny or blocked nose, sore throat and cough.
We strongly advise members of the public not to fall prey to unsubstantiated claims or spread unfounded rumours that herbal products can be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.
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