Hydroxychloroquine has side effects for those who have underlying  medical conditions

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

People are wondering when the COVID-19 spread will stop. They are anxious for things to be back to normal.

Unfortunately, the virus seems to be making decisions more than we are. Science continues to attack the virus.

While a virus specific vaccine is over a year away, there are other vaccine studies going on.

We know that some vaccines cross react with other viruses, so there is protection against more than what the vaccine is used for.

Measles vaccine has that ability.

The best known vaccine for doing that is what is called BCG vaccine. It is a vaccine against tuberculosis used in countries where TB is common. We know that it offers protection against some other disorders as well.

Australia is studying if those protections extend to coronavirus. There is also a study looking at oral polio virus vaccine for the same reason.

I sent an email to the CDC. Since children are less susceptible to the virus, it might have to do with one of the childhood immunizations they receive.

Rubella virus is in the same family as coronavirus. However, no one but me is studying that possible relationship.

A second possible approach is to find a drug that can treat the virus. Hydroxychloroquine initially received some press after a small study in France showed that people who took it got rid of the virus more quickly. However, there was no indication that it actually made the patients better. They just had less virus present.

In addition hydroxychloroquine is not a benign drug. It has side effects in people with underlying medical conditions.

Those side effects take the form of heart rhythm disturbances.

One study found 40 patients with those disturbances. Four of them died. So the patients who get the sickest with COVID-19 also are most prone to the side effects of this drug.

Favipiravir (Avigan) works by keeping viruses from reproducing. It has been shown in initial studies to shorten duration of the virus.

It also improves chest X-rays. It decreases the length of time of both cough and fever. It is a relatively safe drug.

Favipiravir is certainly safer than hydroxychloroquine. We are waiting on the results of a larger trial being done in Japan.

Remdesivir was developed to help treat the Ebola virus. It did not work.

However, it was effective against the coronavirus that caused SARS and the coronavirus that caused MERS. It works in lab testing.

However, there is not yet enough information about whether it works in humans infected with COVID-19.

Another drug is named antiviral EIDD-2801. It is an oral drug. It has shown promise in test-tube experiments with human lung and airway cells.

However, it too has not been tested in humans infected with COVID-19.

One of the problems with people infected with COVID-19 is that their immune systems go into overdrive. The resulting reaction causes damage to body tissues.

It is possible that treating this immune response might be successful.

Studies are underway looking at drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Losartan is a blood pressure medication. It might block the virus from infecting cells. The University of Minnesota is studying this possibility.

There is a concern. People with hypertension seem to be more susceptible to COVID-19.

It might be because of the hypertension itself. It might be because of the drugs (like Losartan) that they are taking for the hypertension.

So it might be helpful. It might be harmful. We don’t yet know. More studies need to be done.

There are clearly actions on many fronts. It is very likely that the end of the pandemic will occur when we find a way to treat the virus.

That is likely to happen before it runs its course. It may very well happen before current lockdowns are relaxed.