On 15th March, 2020 Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in a press conference claimed that “paracetamol is the only medication for coronavirus”. This fact check article is an attempt to determine the context in which Jagan made the claim and whether paracetamol is the only medication for coronavirus.
In that press conference Jagan said the following: “There is no need to panic about coronavirus. Its impact is majorly on senior citizens above the age of 60 years. Moreover, it is dangerous only for those suffering from diabetes, blood pressure, asthma and kidney diseases. For the rest, it is not so dangerous. And paracetamol is the only medication for coronavirus.”
In fact, it is important to point out that the said press conference was regarding the postponing of the local body elections by State Election Commissioner (SEC) N Ramesh Kumar due to coronavirus cases rising in the State.
Looking at the larger context, Jagan did express other concerns regarding the SEC and the decision taken by him. In the same press conference he went so far as to claim that the SEC was acting at the behest of TDP opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu.
Therefore, the claim can be interpreted in two ways. One, that it was an attempt by the CM to allay people’s fears and anxiety by trivialising the seriousness of the pandemic. Two, it was an attempt to disapprove and slam the SEC’s decision by trivialising the seriousness of the pandemic. Or in other words, to use paracetamol to debunk the SEC’s claim, that the coronavirus pandemic is deadly dangerous.
The sagacity of either interpretation depends on verifying the original claim; if paracetamol is, indeed, the only medication for coronavirus.
Is Paracetamol the only medication for coronavirus?
On 14th March, 2020 French Minister for Solidarity and Health tweeted that a common pain-reliever could cause more harm than good for those affected by COVID-19.
The tweet translates in English too: Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone…) could be an aggravating factor for the infection. If you have a fever, take paracetamol.
While many experts agreed and disagreed with this theory, all of them agreed that there is no conclusive proof to determine whether ibuprofen does indeed worsen the disease for people with COVID-19. In fact even the World Health Organisation (WHO) tweeted the same.
In all of this it is obvious that the usage of paracetamol to treat some symptoms of COVID-19. Or rather to mask some of the symptoms due to the virus like fever. In fact, according to Dr Tom Wingfield, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant physician at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, paracetamol may be preferable because it is less likely to cause side effects if taken over a long period.
Therefore it is clear from the above information that paracetamol is indeed one medication which can be used to mask symptoms like fever in a person affected with coronavirus. There is still confusion over the usage of ibuprofen. Therefore Jagan’s claim is partially true. Moreover, was it wise on part of the CM to have made this partially true claim when it clearly does have the potential to lend itself, and in fact did, to misinterpretation and misrepresentation that ‘paracetamol cures coronavirus’? Therefore, given that the partially true claim is not universal and context-dependent, in the first interpretation it maybe not be misleading but in the second interpretation, it does come across as unnecessary and hence misleading in nature.