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World Too Good to Be True? Osaka Says Gargling Formula Can Beat Virus

13:55  04 august  2020
13:55  04 august  2020 Source:   bloomberg.com

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, Gargling with povidone-iodine helped virus patients: officials. Results based on limited trial of around 40 people in Osaka . When asked by a reporter if it was appropriate to be touting the medicine at such an early stage in its research, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, who was also speaking at the briefing

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(Bloomberg) -- The Governor of Japan’s Osaka prefecture touted the powers of gargling medicine to control the coronavirus and recommended at-risk residents use it -- sending related shares jumping and clearing shelves of the medicine, even as some questioned the findings.

a man and a woman standing in front of a store: A face shield and other sanitizing products are displayed for sale at a drug store in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Officials in Japan are planning stricter measures on businesses and group activities as coronavirus cases continue to spread from a concentration around the capital to other urban areas across the country. © Bloomberg A face shield and other sanitizing products are displayed for sale at a drug store in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Officials in Japan are planning stricter measures on businesses and group activities as coronavirus cases continue to spread from a concentration around the capital to other urban areas across the country.

Based on limited trial on a group of 41 patients with mild symptoms, gargling with diluted povidone-iodine four times a day reduced the number of those testing positive to 9.5% after four days, compared with 40% for a group who gargled with just water, Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

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Povidone-iodine is an antiseptic more commonly known as betadine. In Japan, it’s sold as gargles by Shionogi & Co., using the name Isojin under license from Mundipharma, as well as by Meiji Holdings Co. Meiji saw its shares surging as much as 7.7% in Tokyo following the news. Shionogi rose as much as 3.6%.

“It’s worth giving a try,” Yoshimura said, recommending its use to residents with symptoms and those working in high-risk industries such as bars, restaurants and health-care. “It’s a drug that everyone can buy at a drug store and it doesn’t do any harm.”

The finding isn’t based on data from a large, randomized, controlled trial -- the gold standard for assessing the safety and efficacy of any potential therapy. When asked by a reporter if it was appropriate to be touting the medicine at such an early stage in its research, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, who was also speaking at the briefing, questioned back if he was supposed to ignore the findings.

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“We’ve always been asking people to gargle, in addition to washing their hands, wearing a mask and social distancing,” said Matsui. “Now we’re just saying there were better results when they gargled with this instead of gargling with nothing.”

Empty Shelves

At a Matsumotokiyoshi Holdings Co. drug store in central Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, the shelves were stripped clean of gargle medicines containing povidone-iodine, including Meiji’s brand, as of 3:30 p.m. local time. Three nearby stores were also empty. Amazon’s Japanese website listed most related products as being sold out.

“We hadn’t heard anything prior to the governor’s press conference,” said Meiji Holdings spokesman Hirosaki Oode. “Our product is effective at disinfecting the mouth and throat, as well as combatting bad breath. We have no plans to study its effectiveness against coronavirus at this time.”

People in Japan commonly gargle as a preventative measure against colds and flus in winter, similar to hand-washing, though its effectiveness is still a matter of some dispute. A 2005 study by Japanese scientists concluded gargling with water helped prevent upper respiratory tract infections, but didn’t find using povidone-iodine any more effective than water, though a much smaller study on just 23 patients in 2003 did.

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The good news: Salt water actually does help alleviate the pain of a sore throat. “My kids know that gargling with salt water is the first thing I tell them to do when they have a sore throat,” says Sam Huh, MD, chief of otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Brooklyn. “The water has to be hypertonic,” Dr. Huh says .

How to Gargle Saltwater. A sore throat can be that painful, irritating, and sometimes itchy. This scratchy feeling in your throat can make it difficult to swallow. For children, try having them gargle with regular warm water first. The only age restriction to this treatment method is a child’s ability to gargle without

Along with handwashing and mask-wearing, the habit was one of the early reasons posited as possible reasons Japan escaped the initial brunt of the virus relatively unscathed. In recent weeks however, cases have flared up across Japan, with infections in Osaka on some days coming close to surpassing Tokyo despite a much smaller population.

The rush to find something to stem the spread of the pandemic has led to multiple treatments being hailed worldwide as a potential silver bullet for the disease before sufficient data can back those claims up, from hydroxychloroquine touted by President Donald Trump, to Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s antiviral drug Avigan.

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“I even think that gargling with povidone-iodine could defeat the coronavirus,” Yoshimura said. “But it’s still in the research phase and we can’t say anything definitive.”

(Updates with medicine being sold out in sixth paragraph and response from Meiji Holdings in seventh paragraph.)

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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