Why Is Vitamin C Not Included in COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines?

Dawn O'Shea

November 02, 2021

Why is the use of vitamin C not included in clinical guidelines on the treatment of COVID-19 when there is a considerable body of evidence supporting the benefits of this cheap, simple supplement? That is the question being posed by members of the expert group, VitaminC4Covid.

A paper published in the journal Life presents a review of 12 vitamin C studies, carried out by the group, includes five randomised controlled trials and seven retrospective cohort studies, which suggest that vitamin C can help prevent COVID-19 and, if taken once infected, can also reduce symptoms and duration of illness.

The studies show that patients with COVID-19 have depleted vitamin C levels, often to the level found in scurvy. Plasma concentrations of vitamin C were reported to be very low in 70-80 per cent of patients.

Doses of 8 grams of oral vitamin C per day have been shown to increase the rate of recovery from symptomatic infection by 70 per cent. For more critically ill patients, trials using doses of 6-24g a day intravenously have shown positive benefits in terms of increased survival, and reduced hospital stay, improved oxygenation or reduced inflammation.

No adverse event has been reported in any published vitamin C clinical trials in COVID-19 patients.

VitaminC4Covid member, Dr Marcela Vizcaychipi from the Faculty of Medicine at London’s Imperial College and head of research in intensive care medicine at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, has been giving patients with and without COVID-19 being treated in the hospital’s ICU up to 6 grams of vitamin C intravenously. The dosage is dependent on the severity of disease and the amount needed to correct deficiency, as indicated by vitamin C urine sticks.

Based on the clinical evidence, she says: “Vitamin C is certainly one of multiple factors that contributes to better outcomes and speed of recovery. It should be standard practice. We have not had any safety issues at all.”

For over a year now, the VitaminC4covid team has been calling on the government to carry out a proper review of the evidence for vitamin C, in order to inform the public and medical profession. Such a review has not taken place, despite assurances. NICE confirmed that neither NICE nor the multi-agency RAPID C-19 (Research to access pathway for investigational drugs for COVID-19) have undertaken a review of vitamin C for COVID-19 since September 2020.

In June 2020, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jo Churchill said PHE was not aware of any robust evidence that vitamin C can boost the immune system to prevent COVID-19 or mitigate its effects. She said PHE was monitoring emerging evidence on nutrition and COVID-19 and assessing its quality, involving the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition as appropriate. Yet in February 2021 she confirmed that PHE had not reviewed the evidence.

Nutritionist Patrick Holford, who founded VitaminC4Covid, says “there seems to be a double standard” in relation to the use of vitamins to prevent or treat COVID-19.

“The promise of evidence-based medicine to those advocating non-drug treatments such as vitamins was effectively - come up with the evidence and we’ll treat it like any other medicine. The evidence is now undeniable so why aren’t people being told to take high dose vitamin C upon infection and all hospitals checking vitamin C status with urine sticks as a routine measure and acting accordingly? Vitamin C is safe, inexpensive, available and now proven to work,” he says.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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