The Week That Wasn't in COVID-19: Famotidine, Hospital Spread, Mask Markup

Ellie Kincaid


June 12, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

This week in COVID-19 news, researchers posited that oral famotidine was associated with improved outcomes for nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19, a simulation study illustrated how viral DNA spread through a hospital from a single source, and N95 manufacturer 3M sued an Amazon merchant for selling its masks at a double-digit markup. But you didn't see these headlines on Medscape Medical News. Here's why.


Ten patients with COVID-19 who were riding out the disease course at home took high-dose oral formulations of the histamine H2 antagonist famotidine and experienced improvements in their symptoms, as reported in the journal Gut. The results of the case series "suggest that high-dose oral famotidine is well tolerated and associated with improved patient-reported outcomes in non-hospitalised patients with COVID-19," the investigators conclude.

Medscape has previously covered an ongoing, randomized clinical trial of intravenous famotidine for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but we didn't cover this report because it's not possible to draw strong conclusions on the basis a small, observational case series that relies on self-reported data. We don't learn much more about famotidine's effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment from this study, so we didn't think our busy clinician readers needed to hear about it.

Viral Spread in Hospitals

Researchers from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and University College London in the United Kingdom ran a simulation study to illustrate the potential role of contaminated hospital surfaces in spreading COVID-19. They planted DNA from the cauliflower mosaic virus, representing contaminated bodily fluid, on a bed rail in a pediatric isolation room and then sampled other surfaces in the ward to detect viral spread.

They found viral DNA on 40% of the ward surfaces they sampled 10 hours after the experiment began. On the third day of the experiment, they found DNA on 50% of the sampled surfaces. Their findings were reported in a letter to the editor in the Journal of Hospital Infection. The researchers conclude: "This study highlights the role of surfaces as a reservoir of pathogens and the need to address requirements for surface cleaning."

The researchers' point, "let's not forget surfaces," is well taken, and most infection-control measures do account for surfaces. The study's results are valuable as a reminder for healthcare workers to wash their hands and wipe down surfaces, but as a single study, and one that simulated spread of a plant virus, this doesn't confirm that SARS-CoV-2 itself is spreading via hospital surfaces. We didn't see a novel, must-know finding for our readers, so we didn't cover this study's release.

Mask Markup

N95 mask manufacturer 3M sued an Amazon seller in California federal court for listing what the seller described as 3M masks on Amazon for an average price of $23.21, the Wall Street Journal reported. 3M's N95s have a list price of about $1.25. According to the WSJ, 3M has recently filed more than a dozen lawsuits against mask sellers alleging price gouging, trade mark infringement, and false advertising.

We suspect our readers are well aware that, unfortunately, some bad actors are selling personal protective equipment at high prices, some of it counterfeit. We didn't think it necessary to highlight one of many lawsuits by 3M against a single alleged perpetrator of a common problem.

Ellie Kincaid is Medscape's associate managing editor. She has previously written about healthcare for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Nature Medicine. She can be reached at or @ellie_kincaid on Twitter.

Follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Here's how to send Medscape a story tip.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.