KEY POINTS

  • Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz points to drugs that can cure or mitigate the virulence of COVID-19
  • He also says people should boost their immune systems to help fight off the disease
  • Taking high doses of vitamin C hasn't been proven to be effective, however

TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz, who shot to national fame as a regular guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," is touting medical and alternative medicine treatments that can strengthen the body's natural defenses against COVID-19.

The cardiothoracic surgeon has long championed alternative medicine. But he's been assailed by fellow physicians and scientific publications for endorsing unproven products and dispensing non-scientific and pseudo-scientific advice. In 2014, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a study saying than half of his recommendations on medical talk series like "The Dr. Oz Show" had either no evidence or contradicted medical research.

Against the rampaging threat of COVID-19, Dr. Oz's prescription consists of a mixture of legitimate pharmaceuticals and vitamins.

“The first thing is, you build up your innate immune system,” said Dr. Oz on "Fox & Friends."

“You can enhance the immune system with convalescent plasma therapy," which is now being tested in New York City as a treatment for those critically ill from COVID -19.

Dr. Oz said convalescent plasma therapy involves giving antibodies made from a recovered coronavirus patient to another who is ill from the coronavirus.

"That seems to jumpstart them," said Dr. Oz said, referring to the patient's own immune system.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 23 announced plans to resurrect convalescent plasma as an immediate stopgap measure to treat infected people.

"There have been tests that show when a person is injected with the antibodies, that then stimulates and promotes their immune system against that disease," said Cuomo.

Dr. Oz also supports people taking the drug hydroxychloroquine, which he claims is showing promising signs in curing COVID-19 patients.

“That’s the malaria drug, we believe that’s one of the mechanisms which can play a role," he said of the drug.

On "Hannity" last week, Dr. Oz spoke highly about using hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which is SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).

He said he was pleased to hear from vice president Mike Pence about the "off-label" use of hydroxychloroquine, but warned against people taking the drug without medical advice.

"I was thrilled when Vice President Pence today told me that he was pleased that the FDA was OK with off-label use," said Dr. Oz. "Basically, what I'm hearing, I'm hoping getting it right is that although we don't want people using off-label products, if physicians need to take care of their patients. The U.S. government respects that reality."

Dr. Oz said there are drugs that might be effective against COVID-19. Among these is remdesivir, which is now in Phase 3 clinical trials, and is also seen as a promising method of blocking viral replication.

He said the jury is out on whether the drugs lopinavir and ritonavir are effective against the virus. The drugs pirfenidone and aviptadil might prevent the inflammatory system from overreacting to SARS-CoV-2 and both are in the experimental phase.

Dr. Oz said people can also do vitamins. He said "high-dose vitamin C" might play a role in building immunity, but warned the "jury is still out" on its effectiveness. Dr. Oz also said a dose of zinc can help. He claims not only can zinc block SARS-CoV-2 from getting into the body’s cells, but it can also block the virus from replicating.