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COVID-19 miracle remedies

A preprint published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) describing a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus caught the attention of Dutch biologist Elizabeth Bik, who runs a blog on scientific integrity. The paper’s title makes an extraordinary claim: “Dramatic clinical improvement in nine consecutive acutely ill elderly COVID-19 patients treated with a nicotinamide mononucleotide cocktail: A retrospective case series.” Bik decided to investigate, and even before looking at the results, she found evidence of misconduct. The study was carried out without the approval of an institutional ethics committee, which in the USA is mandatory for treatments not yet certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The author, physician Robert Huizenga, also stated that he had no conflicts of interest, despite the cocktail in question being produced by a company run by his own brother, Joel Huizenga, who has applied to patent the product, advertised as a “fountain of youth.” The cocktail’s main compound, NMN, is a food supplement sold online.

“There are no published studies on the efficacy of the cocktail, just a report of 12 men who had to pay to be treated and who all reported feeling younger and playing better chess,” wrote Bik. Although he claims to be affiliated with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Robert Huizenga, known in Los Angeles, California, as Dr. H, left the hospital in the 1980s to become a doctor for the Los Angeles Raiders American football team, and in recent years, worked as a consultant on American TV reality shows such as The Biggest Loser, in which morbidly obese people compete to see who can lose the most weight. Since 2013, he has been the owner of a spa in Malibu.

Many COVID-19 drugs have been hailed as supposed miracle cures in the USA since the pandemic began. A study published in the journal Therapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science in October showed that between the months of May and July, the FDA sent 98 warning letters to companies selling products that were allegedly effective against the novel coronavirus but were actually counterfeit or had not been approved by regulatory bodies. The fraudulent treatments included herbal teas, hand sanitizers, toothpastes, and even a fake vaccine. The most bizarre item on the list was a honey and fruit syrup that the makers claimed could prevent COVID-19 in children, marketed online as “unicorn poo.” The FDA also issued a warning to a website that sold “blessed waters, essential oils, hand sanitizers, homeopathic products, and tinctures” to prevent and treat COVID-19.