This OTC drug may treat COVID-19, but here’s why you shouldn’t stock up

Right now, scientists are exploring every possible avenue for treating COVID-19. That includes revisiting existing drugs used to treat other conditions.

I recently wrote about how the Ebola drug Remdesivir shows some serious promise against COVID-19. But it turns out there’s a far more common drug that could be a treatment for COVID-19. I’m willing to bet you’ve even used this drug at some point in your life.

The drug I’m talking about is famotidine. You’ll find it in popular heartburn medications like Pepcid. And new research shows there’s a reasonable chance that it could make a difference in COVID-19.

Famotidine shows promise… but don’t start stocking up

Researchers at Northwell Health in New York are performing a trial to see if famotidine helps treat COVID-19.

In the trial, researchers are giving COVID-19 patients high intravenous doses of famotidine. The trial includes about 200 people and is still in progress. So, it’s too soon to say with any certainty it can help.

But here’s what Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling had to say about the research so far:

“Our scientists have a reasonable confidence in this trial that it may make a difference.”

Sounds promising, right? That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news…

Related: Experts agree: Dietary supplements can help in the fight against COVID-19

Before the results of the trial have even come out, people are hoarding the drug. They’re going to drug stores and clearing the shelves of heartburn medications that contain famotidine. Even Amazon is sold out right now.

Northwell Health researchers were afraid this might happen. They’ve seen it happen with other drugs being studied to treat COVID-19. They even tried to keep this study a secret to prevent people from buying it all up.

But now that word is out that they’re studying a medication that’s (usually) readily available on supermarket and pharmacy shelves, people are hoarding it.

Unfortunately, this behavior creates more problems than it solves. Even if the people who buy this drug get COVID-19, it would be next to impossible to treat it with the OTC variety. In the trial, they’re injecting the drug intravenously and they’re using a dose that’s nine times higher than what someone would use to treat heartburn.

There’s also no clear-cut evidence that the drug works yet. Even after the results of the trial come out, scientists will need to study the drug more to know for sure if it’s safe and effective. So, do yourself a favor — don’t jump the gun on buying this drug.

Keep up the good work

Right now, there’s no magic pill that can prevent or treat COVID-19. Our best bet at this point is social distancing, handwashing, wearing masks and following other common-sense safety precautions.

It’s not easy to follow all these rules with no clear end in sight. But for now, it’s the only proven way to protect yourself. Stocking up on heartburn medication certainly won’t do the trick. Stay safe and healthy.


  1. Heartburn drug trial shows ‘reasonable confidence’ famotidine could help treat coronavirus, hospital CEO says— CNBC.
  2. People Are Now Hoarding a Heartburn Drug Researched as Potential COVID-19 Treatment— ScienceAlert.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and