Medical experts and practitioners were quick to blast the update. With no cure in sight, the decision to restrict access to early treatment is a “death sentence” for hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 patients in the U.S., said Simone Gold, an emergency medicine specialist in California and founder of America's Frontline Doctors.
Furthermore, restricting access to treatment is in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath, a binding document held sacred by physicians, added Gold. Based on the modern version of this oath, physicians solemnly promise to “prevent diseases whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to a cure.”
Should this latest update stand unchallenged, it would “criminalize medical ethics,” Gold concluded.
The update came not a week after President Donald Trump was confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19. He was prescribed remdesivir, the first drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19, among other drugs.
Had the NIH changed its guideline just a week earlier, President Trump would have been denied treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center, said Gold.
Furthermore, researchers of a recent double-blind, randomized clinical trial on remdesivir concluded that the drug worked best when given earlier in COVID-19. This finding clashes with the NIH's recommendation that remdesivir should only be given to hospitalized patients that require supplemental oxygen.
In response to the NIH update, Scott Jensen, a family medicine specialist and Republican State Senator from Minnesota, said in a Facebook post that hospitalized patients should be able to explore and discuss treatment options with their physicians instead of waiting for their condition to worsen.
Patients do not want to be faced with a choice between a ventilator or hospice care if the disease worsens, said Jensen.
But it may not need to come to that. Preventive measures, such as taking zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D and other immune-boosting micronutrients, may help protect against COVID-19 and stall its progression, he added.
Like Jensen, other health experts also emphasize the role of these micronutrients, as well as good nutrition, in strengthening a person's immune health against COVID-19.
Grayson Jaggers, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California, said as much in one of his recent articles published online. In it, Jaggers wrote that having a strong immune system is the best defense against COVID-19. To keep it strong, proper nutrition is an absolute must.
This entails eating more plant-based foods that contain essential nutrients, antioxidants and several beneficial plant compounds that support immunity. Vitamin D, for example, helps regulate the immune system. Vitamin A, on the other hand, has been shown to protect against infectious diseases like measles.
But just a month after the first few cases of COVID-19 were reported in the US, health experts were able to put out guidelines on how the public can best support their immune health for better protection against COVID-19. The guidelines, published as a report in Preprints, emphasized eating a balanced diet and taking supplements.
Improving nutrition is a straightforward step that people can take to help their bodies deal with infections and limit the emergence of new virulent strains of viruses, said lead author Philip Calder, a nutritional immunology professor at the University of Southampton in the U.K.
For better nutrition, Calder recommends eating a healthy and varied diet composed of fruits, vegetables, fatty fishes and lean meat. (Related: Follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly to stay healthy during coronavirus lockdowns.)
To learn more about prevention strategies for COVID-19, visit Prevention.news.