TITUSVILLE, FL (April 10, 2020)—Parrish Medical Center (PMC) has
been treating coronavirus (COVID-19) patients with hydroxychloroquine
since the start of the pandemic, for patients whose medical history allows
the treatment’s use.
Two patients on ventilators and one patient being closely monitored are
currently receiving the treatment.
“We’ve been employing a combination of anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine
and azithromycin since the first patient admitted with COVID-19,”
said Frank Dienst, MD, Parrish Medical Center Intensivist and Critical
Care Medical Director. “We prescribe it for all patients who don’t
have contraindications, such as a condition or underlying health issues
that would make the treatment inadvisable.”
“Most critical care specialists recognize the combination of the
two drugs as probably being useful, but it’s not a certainty. It’s
generally prescribed only for significant disease, such as pneumonia,”
added Dr. Dienst.
Before the treatment is administered, Dr. Dienst and Dr. Ochoa speak with
patients and families to explain the process, and that while the drug
combination isn’t FDA approved to combat COVID-19, it is approved
for other conditions. Patients must attest that they understand and agree
with the treatment.
Use of approved drugs in this fashion is called “off-label,”
and is not uncommon in the medical field, Dr. Dienst said.
“It’s not a good option for all patients,” Dr. Dienst
said. “Honest discussions with patients and families are an important
part of clinical decision-making, and in the right cases this treatment
holds out the possibility of saving lives.”
Al Ochoa, MD, Parrish Medical Center Internal Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical
Care specialist, states that severe shortness of breath, high fever, persistent
and difficult to control dry cough, and extremely low blood-oxygen levels
are the symptoms most prevalent among COVID-19 patients being cared for
within the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Doctors Dienst and Ochoa are leading PMC’s dedicated-COVID-19 units.
Hospital-dedicated COVID-19 units are the entire ICU and the north wing
of the medical center’s third floor; both sites are negative pressure
spaces dedicated to COVID-19 patient care.
The National Institute of Health says that hydroxychloroquine “is
used to treat malaria and rheumatoid conditions such as arthritis. In
various studies, the drug has demonstrated antiviral activity, an ability
to modify the activity of the immune system, and has an established safety
profile at appropriate doses, leading to the hypothesis that it may also
be useful in the treatment of COVID-19.”
Various hospitals around the country have been using the drug combination
for COVID-19 patients, Dr. Ochoa said.
“COVID-19 is new to the world, and the efforts to combat it are underway
on a number of fronts,” Dr. Ochoa said. “More is being learned
all the time. At present, the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin
has shown, in some cases, effectiveness for patients, and that’s
why it’s in use at PMC.”