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Lung and kidney damage caused by COVID-19, not antiviral drug

September 21, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Lungs filling with fluid and kidney failure are actually side effects of remdesivir, a treatment approved for COVID-19, not symptoms of the disease itself.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Critical COVID-19, not the drug remdesivir, has been known to cause fluid in the lungs and renal failure.

THE FACTS: Remarks made by a former chiropractor are circulating online, spreading false information about an antiviral medicine used to treat COVID-19.

Bryan Ardis falsely claims that COVID-19 is not killing millions of Americans, and that the deaths are actually being caused by the use of remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients. His inaccuracies about the drug have been widely shared in text and video posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Ardis has heavily criticized remdesivir on talk shows where he spreads falsehoods about the drug. Medical professionals who have studied the drug have dismissed Ardis’s claims, saying that the symptoms described are clear signs of critical COVID-19 and are not caused by remdesivir. Ardis could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved remdesivir -- distributed as Veklury by Gilead Sciences Inc. -- to treat COVID-19 in October 2020, citing randomized clinical trials showing that the drug reduced patients’ recovery times.

Dr. John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the patients who got remdesivir in those trials showed no evidence of kidney damage compared with the group that didn’t get the drug.

Before even using the drug, patients must undergo kidney and liver tests to make sure it is safe for them, so experts would have noted if the drug was responsible for deaths like the posts online suggest.

Dr. Hana El Sahly helped conduct a randomized clinical trial that examined the role of remdesivir in treating COVID-19 in 2020. El Sahly said the study did not find the lung or kidney side effects that were described in the false posts.

“These are complications of critical COVID-19,” she said of the posts. “We did a study and examined remdesivir in a blinded way by using placebo control and randomization. These side effects did not occur,” she said.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.