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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Ask Dr. Nandi: COVID-19 Treatment Update: Blood Plasma, Hydroxychloroquine and Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug

Posted at 12:05 PM, May 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-09 12:05:51-04

There’s more bad news concerning Hydroxychloroquine, the drug once touted to be “one of the biggest game-changers” for COVID-19. The largest study to date found no real benefits to using this drug when it came to hospitalized patients.

These patients were treated at a medical center in New York and over 1,300 were part of this latest study. Now for about 5 days, 60% of these patients were given hydroxychloroquine. And what the researchers found was that these folks did not fare any better than those who were not given the drug.

Specifically, the data showed that the medication did not lessen the need for ventilators and that there wasn’t a lower risk of dying. Also, I’d like to add that a survey of doctors worldwide found that 55% of them had used hydroxychloroquine at some point in time. But only 29% rated it as safe. And that’s likely because this medication has been linked to a higher risk of arrhythmia, an irregular heart rhythm that can be quite dangerous in some people.

There’s another study out regarding a different medication, and the data shows it may be helping COVID-19 patients when given along with hydroxychloroquine.

That’s anakinra, the Rheumatoid Arthritis drug. And here’s how it may be helping. Many people who die with COVID-19 have ARDS, acute respiratory distress syndrome. That’s when fluid builds up in the air sacs in your lungs. And that can happen as a result of what’s called a “cytokine storm".

Cytokines are small immune proteins released to help fight off infections. If the body’s immune system overreacts, too many are released. And that can lead to hyper-inflammation in the lungs, which can then lead to ARDS.

So, how might anakinra stop this from happening? Well, in this study, 29 patients with ARDS and hyper-inflammation were given high doses of anakinra intravenously, along with the drug hydroxychloroquine and antiviral medications. And after 3 weeks, 72% of the patients had improved respiratory function. And only 17% required ventilation. Best of all, 26 of the 29 patients survived.

So while this is encouraging news, I have to point out that the study was small. So we really need a larger trial. And that means, that the results overall could change.

Lastly, Johns Hopkins is launching trials using blood plasma treatment for COVID-19.

This is very exciting because small studies in China have shown positive results. Now there are two John Hopkins studies and the first one kicks off May 15th. That’s when 150 healthcare workers and some nursing home residents who are not currently infected with the coronavirus will be given blood plasma that contains antibodies.

The goal is to find out if this treatment will protect these participants from getting infected.

As for the second trial, it’ll have a lot more people involved, roughly 1,000. Those folks will already have COIVD-19 but anyone who is so sick that they need to be hospitalized will not be part of this study. And that’s because the researchers want to find out if the blood plasma treatment can either slow the disease down or completely halt its progression.

Now as to when we’ll hear if these trials are successful or not, it’ll be a few weeks before we hear preliminary results.

On the next ALL-NEW Dr. Nandi Show, it's hard to believe but even some of the fittest and seemingly healthy people can have an eating disorder. Dr. Partha Nandi explores the signs of symptoms of this debilitating condition and talks with some athletes who say that no one ever knew they had an eating disorder. And we hear important information from Dr. Gail Hall who talks about orthorexia, an eating disorder where people refuse to eat anything but clean, whole food. Tune in this Saturday, May 9th at 5 pm.

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