March 26, 2020 / 4:38 PM / 12 days ago

False claim: patients with respiratory conditions can receive 'rescue packs' from their doctor

A message shared on social media in the UK claims that people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma can contact their GP for a 'rescue pack’ containing antibiotics and steroid tablets. Example ( here ). This is not true.

The posts, circulated on social media within the UK, come as the coronavirus outbreak has pushed the country into a lockdown. By March 25, 2020 some 9,529 people had tested positive for the virus in the United Kingdom while 463 patients had died.

COVID-19 appears to pose a greater threat to people with pre-existing health conditions, including those with respiratory problems like severe asthma (here ). The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says people with “a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma” are at high risk from the virus (here).

The false claim posted on social media states: “Those of you with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as COPD or asthma can contact your GP for a ‘Rescue Pack’. It gives you a 5 day supply of a corticosteroid (prednisolone) and a 5 day supply of an antibiotic (usually amoxicillin or doxycycline) which can be started immediately if you develop any breathing issues.

A large number of UK general practices have released statements on their websites and social media pages confirming that this is false.

In one such statement, London’s Lower Clapton Health Centre said on its website (here):

“We have been made aware of some inaccurate information circulating regarding special ‘rescue packs’ for patients with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Please do not contact your GP practice for a rescue pack. You should continue to manage your condition in the usual way and if you feel you have symptoms of COVID-19, go to before doing anything else.”

In response to the posts, health officials (here and here ) have clarified that some people have previously been given rescue packs – but these were to manage flare ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as part of an agreed management plan. “They are not currently recommended as a routine treatment in patients with Covid-19 (Coronavirus),” the The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) of Northern Ireland states on its website.

The charity Asthma UK said that it was aware of the messages circulating on social media, and stressed that the packs are not recommended as standard for people with asthma. "If someone’s asthma is bad enough to consider steroids it is essential they are assessed by a healthcare professional. Even at this busy time for the NHS, getting early support for any problems with your lungs is critical to keep you well and out of hospital,” it said on its Facebook page (here).

The NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group urged people to “follow official guidance” and to be aware of “false information” that is sometimes posted on social media. (here).


False: patients cannot receive a ‘rescue pack’ from their GP if they have pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD, unless previously prescribed as part of an agreement management plan.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .

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