COVID-19 Day 68: A Safer Treatment Than Hydroxychloroquine


Despite early hopes by President Trump and Chinese researchers, chloroquine, and its less toxic derivative hydroxychloroquine, has disappointed as a cure for COVID-19. At high doses, hydroxychloroquine has caused dangerous heart arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) which could easily kill a critical patient, clinging to life, intubated in an ICU. Patients with moderate-to-severe symptoms are less at risk of death due to heart arrhythmia, which is why it’s still used to treat COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine’s immune suppressant with anti-inflammatory properties are thought to help calm the cytokine storm that causes the lung and organ damage and leads to death. French doctors were among the first to report positive results in COVID-19 cases but a larger US study didn’t find similar results. Further studies are starting to determine effective it truly is compared with other treatments. And a new competitor has entered the ring.

Researchers in Michigan tried using a different class of anti-inflammatory drugs to blunt the cytokine storm. Like hydroxychloroquine, the corticosteroid methylprednisolone is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients. Researchers found methylprednisolone reduced average hospital stays from 8 days to 5 days in patients with moderate-to-serious symptoms. 

Prolonged methylprednisolone use does have some known side-effects including headache, nausea, weight gain, acne, feet swelling, and high blood pressure. But the COVID-19 treatment was a short 3-day, twice-a-day IV infusion, so none of the test subjects experienced any of the typical side-effects. More importantly, corticosteroids do not cause dangerous heart arrhythmia. Additional studies are underway to confirm these results.

While not a cure, a safer treatment for COVID-19 is certainly something to be pumped about.


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