PETERS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, remdesivir.
Lots of drugs are getting attention as potential treatments.
Could they work? Could they be dangerous?
“Currently, there’s no FDA approved drug for COVID-19,” says Dr. Nitin Bhanot, an infectious diseases specialist at AHN.
Hydroxychloroquine, brand-name Plaquenil, is an old drug used to prevent malaria.
Also, people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis take it to reduce inflammation.
It could possibly work because the drug attaches to and blocks a cell protein the coronavirus uses to get into the cell. And it changes the chemistry inside the cell making it harder for the virus to make copies of itself.
But high doses and chronic use can be toxic to the eyes.
“It may work in the lab. It may reduce the virus from multiplying, but does that translate to better clinical outcomes? We don’t have that answer,” Bhanot said.
Azithromycin is not an antiviral but an antibiotic for certain bacterial infections. You may know it as a Z-Pack.
The excitement comes from an extremely small study of 30 patients. About 10 of them got hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin together, and the amount of virus they had dropped dramatically.
Because of the small number of patients, this could have been due to chance.
And one concern: the combination of these drugs could cause a fatal heart rhythm.
Remdesivir is an antiviral drug, and it can impact the liver. It’s available as a part of a number of clinical trials.
Other possible treatments to be studied or developed include arthritis drugs and artificial antibodies.
But even with treatment progress, we must still socially distance.
“Let’s say in two months there’s a drug works really well,” Bhanot said. “That doesn’t mean you stop taking the infection protective measures that are most important to battling this disease.”
Just this week, the FDA is allowing investigational treatment with an old strategy that was used during the 1918 flu called convalescent plasma, where are you take the liquid part of blood from people who have recovered from coronavirus.
This liquid part, the plasma, carries antibodies.
You would then give the plasma to people with active disease.