NICE Admit Knowingly Ignoring Vitamin C Evidence

Under a Freedom of Information act request, the Government’s agency RAPID C-19 (set up to ‘to ensure safe and timely patient access to treatments that show evidence of benefit in preventing and treating COVID-19) have confirmed that “neither NICE nor its expert group RAPID C-19 carried out a review of any of the 18 papers” which they had confirmed as ‘clinically relevant’.

To make matters worse they had circulated these papers to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) relevant scientific advisory committee on nutrition (SACN) but specifically instructed them not to review the evidence so as to avoid duplication of effort as this was within RAPID C-19’s remit.

The minutes of SACN’s March meeting confirms this stating “SACN also agreed to continue monitoring emerging evidence on nutrition in relation to immune function and vaccine response specifically in relation to COVID-19, with the exception of vitamin C, vitamin D, as these topics were being covered by other organisations: RAPID-C19, a multi-agency initiative led by NICE, are monitoring evidence on vitamin C and vitamin D in relation to treatment for COVID-19.  SACN’s minutes then list the now 22 ‘Studies investigating the role of vitamin C and treatment of COVID-19 provided by NICE surveillance’.

While the Government’s agencies collectively ignore strong evidence for vitamin C showing reduced duration of infection and mortality they have spent over £2 billion, a tenth of the NHS drug bill, on a dubious anti-viral drug, Paxlovid. A searing editorial in the British Medical Journal asks: ‘Would you spend £2bn of taxpayers’ money on an unproved treatment for covid-19? Wouldn’t you wait for better evidence to emerge, especially when we are in a cost-of-living crisis that is worsening the health of people on low incomes and forcing people with cancer to turn off their heating?’

Paxlovid is a sophisticated bit of pharmacology that combines a new antiviral – nirmatrelvir – with an older drug called Ritonavir that makes nirmatrelvir more concentrated. But it can also boost the concentration of other drugs, some of which can be used to treat covid patients, such as anticoagulants and corticosteroids, with unpredictable effects. A Canadian professor of medicine and epidemiology, James Brophy, has described the thinking behind the decision as: ‘Let’s look as if we are doing something, even if we aren’t sure it works and costs a fortune.’

Another complication is that it must be given within five days of the symptoms appearing. But many people don’t know when the infection started, then you have to have a test and then a GP appointment and finally a prescription. ‘I’d suggest doing this in five days is very hard,’ comments Dr Andrew Hill a senior researcher at Liverpool University in an article in the BMJ published in April. Vitamin C is also most effective if given early in infection but, unlike the drug, doesn’t have to prescribed and has no adverse effects other than loose bowels at very high doses.

It demonstrates that the government have a flagrant bias towards profitable drugs and away from inexpensive vitamins, blatantly ignoring the science around them

Read my response in the British Medical Journal.