December 9, 2022

False Claim That ‘Paracetamol Tablets Contain Deadly Machupo Virus’ Spreads Online

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Several Facebook posts in Thailand have shared a claim that some painkiller paracetamol tablets contain the Machupo virus, which can cause life-threatening hemorrhagic fever. However, the claim is false; health experts called it “fake” and explained that the virus could not survive in the tablet. The product in question, called P-500, is also not sold in Thailand.

“How the Department of Public Health and the Food and Drug Administration let this happen?” reads a Thai Facebook post shared here on June 11, 2022.

“Channel 9 reported that Paracetamol P-500 contains Machupo virus, which is one of the deadliest viruses in the world and has been found in 11 provinces including Bangkok. Please share this with your family.”

Screenshot of the misleading post captured on June 16, 2022

The same claim was shared in other Thai Facebook posts here, here and here.

A similar claim was also shared in Malaysia here and in Myanmar here.

However, experts told AFP that claim is “false”.

Machupo virus

The Machupo virus causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever which, according to the Pan American Health Organization, has a mortality rate of between 5 and 30%.

Experts told AFP it would be “impossible” for paracetamol tablets to contain the virus.

“I can confirm that this claim is false,” said Alisara Sangviroon Sujarit, senior lecturer in pharmaceutical sciences at Chulalongkorn University.

She told AFP: “To produce a tablet, the conditions have to be very dry. The virus needs a humid environment and a low temperature to reproduce. This is why the virus does not survive in this kind of environment.

“In addition, the pharmaceutical company will have to perform quality control, which makes it impossible for a drug to contain a virus.”

Thanaporn Chobsri, a pharmacist at the Thai Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), agreed and called the allegation “fake news”.

“There are strict regulations from the pharmaceutical manufacturer on how to produce drugs. It is totally impossible for there to be a virus in the paracetamol tablet,” she told AFP.

P-500 unavailable in Thailand

According to Thailand’s national drug database, P-500 does not appear in the list of drugs sold in Thailand.

“Paracetamol as P-500 is not available in Thailand. It has never been registered in Thailand,” Thanaporn said.

“There are many brands of paracetamol in Thailand. They can be purchased easily from pharmacies. However, P-500 is not sold in Thailand,” Alisara added.

Channel 9 report

Channel 9 refers to the Thai news agency MCOT.

Peerapol Anuttarasote, from the Sure and Share agency’s fact-checking center, told AFP that the channel had “never reported” that paracetamol P-500 contained the Machupo virus.

The agency also debunked the claim on June 14, in this Facebook post titled, “Channel 9 reported there is paracetamol-contaminated virus? This is a hoax, don’t share.”

There have also been no cases of Machupo virus infection in Thailand, according to health officials.

Chawetsan Namwat, director of the Emergency Health and Disease Control Division of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, told AFP: “There have been no reports of the alleged spread of the virus in Thailand. . This is obviously fake news.”