While full clinical testing has not been completed, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is advocating doctors use an established malaria drug in treatment of COVID-19 patients.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, DeSantis said they have worked with federal authorities to make hydroxychloroquine available to hospitals in south Florida and soon in Tallahassee.
This drug was originally developed for treatment of malaria and is commonly used to assist immunocompromised patients. It gained public steam as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus after President Donald Trump pointed to its effectiveness in treating some patients.
Late last month, the FDA gave emergency clearance to use the medication in treating COVID-19, and since then some doctors have seen success.
Broward Health critical care and pulmonary physician Dr. Sanul Kumar shared his experience treating COVID-19 with reporters. He said hydroxychloroquine has proved effective enough to now be part of treatment for all hospitalized patients.
But he said hydroxychloroquine is not the only treatment option. He pointed to other drugs such as the infection treatment commonly known as Z-Pak. Kumar also said non-drug treatments have proved effective.
“We need to have every option available for these patients,” Kumar said. “These patients are very, very sick.”
DeSantis also shared a testimonial from a COVID-19 patient that had recovered who was treated with hydroxychloroquine.
In the video, the patient says “I can breath” and thanks his healthcare providers. At one point he gets choked up.
“You guys saved my life,” he said.
But hydroxychloroquine is not a drug that should be used over the counter said critical care Dr. Carlos Campo, another official brought in by DeSantis to speak to reporters.
Campo explained that while the drug appears effective, it can have serious, sometimes life threatening side effects including impacting the rhythm of the heart.
But if administered under physician supervision in concert with other treatments, hydroxychloroquine may prove a life saver for the more than 1,700 Floridians currently hospitalized with this disease.