Don’t Be An ‘IDIOT’ Say Doctors, Warning Against Self-Medication For COVID Treatment

New Delhi: Self-medication as a result of IDIOT (Internet Derived Information Obstruction Treatment) syndrome is a new worry for doctors treating COVID-19 patients. In fact, the medical fraternity concedes that it is one of the major underlying causes for the severity of infection among many patients.


Heavy reliance on self-medication at home without professional advice often results in a negative and delayed response leading to complications by the time a patient reaches the hospital. Information gleaned from Google searches, WhatsApp forwards and hearsay are interfering with COVID-19 treatment, say doctors.

Doctors treating COVID patients for several months say that IDIOT Syndrome is actually blocking access to treatment.

Popping antivirals, steroids and antibiotics besides injecting antivirals like Remdesivir without consulting a doctor can lead to the severity in COVID-19, doctors at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) have warned.

Professor GD Puri, Head Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Dean academics at PGI, Chandigarh told India Today, “Whenever a patient tests positive for Covid-19 there is a fear in his mind. The patient starts running around for drugs to get rid of the Covid-19.”

“Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about the drugs. There are certain drugs that may cause harm. Drugs like steroids and unnecessary use of Remdesivir, Tocilizumab and Itolizumab can prove harmful. Rather than helping the patient, it can increase the severity of the disease,” he was quoted as saying.

“Besides interfering with the treatment, IDIOT Syndrome also causes depression and fear among the public,” Dr C N Manjunath, director, Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and member of the state’s Technical Advisory Committee for COVID-19 was quoted as saying in The Deccan Chronicle.

Doctors said those addicted to googling stuff are suffering more in the pandemic. “Those turning to the internet for every single issue are badly affected now,” a senior doctor from Victoria Hospital told The Deccan Chronicle. Rather than reaching the hospital, people with symptoms are relying more on medication they find on the internet. Even as they reach the hospital after their symptoms grow severe despite self-medication, patients refuse to tell doctors the medication they took, he added.


“More than 80 per cent of people who test positive for Covid-19 may not require any medication. Only 10 to 15 per cent of patients will require paracetamol besides close monitoring of the oxygen saturation level. Whenever a Covid-19 patient reaches the emergency facility of a Covid-care facility at PGI Chandigarh, he is asked to take a five-minute walk. He is only hospitalised if the oxygen levels drop below 94,” Prof Puri told India Today.


“The major problem in Covid-19 is the lung involvement which leads to the dropping of oxidation. This can simply be measured by a simple oximeter. If you keep monitoring the saturation and if the saturation is at baseline there is no need to worry,” he said. Professor Puri said if the saturation does not drop from the normal 99 to 97 after walking that means that the lung involvement is not significant.

An article on self-medication (SM) published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information said that the use of SM with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine without a prescription to prevent COVID-19 has been documented in India. Later, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as being unsafe in mild-to-moderate COVID-19 based on their therapeutic safety profile in COVID-19 patients. Therefore, the WHO has provided several warnings to observe caution when using SM to treat COVID-19, it said.

Warning of the consequences of SM the article said, “It can lead to an incorrect diagnosis, serious adverse effects, drug interactions, drug dependence, and microbial resistance.”

Among its take-home messages is the dire need to control and manage appropriate SM practices by applying strong legislation and involving healthcare professionals and policymakers.

  • During health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, people should seek advice from health experts before using any remedy.

  • The use of self-medication could be improved by educating the public about the harmful effects of irrational drug use.


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