Media reports about a laboratory study published in the "Virology Journal" on 9.9.2020 and indicating that a herbal extract of Echinacea purpurea – among other substances – is also capable of killing coronaviruses, have resulted in strong demand for preparations containing these extracts. A corresponding effect in humans has not been demonstrated.
Media articles on Echinaforce® and online offers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
The published study results have been partly misinterpreted. The investigations in the laboratory were conducted with cell cultures (in vitro), and no investigations to date have shown any effect against the new coronavirus in humans (i.e. in vivo).
The conditions prevailing in cell cultures cannot be compared with those in an organism (human body). The data from an in vitro study do not provide proof of the efficacy of an active substance in humans (in vivo). Substances/active substances that show an effect in cell cultures (in vitro) frequently prove to be ineffective in human trials.
In view of the lack of studies on the exact effect of echinacea extracts in humans, promoting the use of Echinaforce® against coronaviruses is not permitted for reasons of patient safety. Such promotion is classed as consumer fraud since it assumes that the product works in humans, giving people a false sense of security.
Echinaforce® preparations are herbal medicines authorised in Switzerland for use in those who are prone to colds. The checked and officially approved indications and possible side effects and restrictions on use are listed in product information texts published on the website www.swissmedicinfo.ch.
Public reporting of this study has been followed by numerous illegal offers of Echinaforce® preparations on various online platforms on the internet and social media. Swissmedic is therefore taking this opportunity to remind the public that the purchase of medicines on the internet from unknown sources is associated with substantial health risks, since their quality cannot be guaranteed. Sellers offering medicines via online portals are liable to be prosecuted.
A licence is required in order to sell medicines. Drugstores and pharmacies possess a corresponding retail licence. The Therapeutic Products Act stipulates that anyone selling medicinal products without a licence shall be liable to a custodial sentence of up to three years or a financial penalty (Art. 86 para. 1 a TPA).
Unless the operators of online platforms have already taken action themselves and removed corresponding offers from the internet, Swissmedic will arrange for the deletion of such offers since medicines are not allowed to be sold via these platforms.