COVID-19: Warning of Treatment Risks

Physicians have been asked repeatedly by patients to prescribe a Z-Pak and hydroxychloroquine to patients to have on hand “just in case they get sick.” This is based on a limited study out of France showing hospitalized patients with COVID-19 improving somewhat on this regimen. There were anecdotal tales of this combination having limited success in Chinese hospitals.

Patients requesting this medication must understand that taking this combination carries significant risks of sudden death due to heart arrythmias. When this combination is tried in the hospital the patients are having daily electrocardiograms (EKGs) and are maintained on a telemetry monitor to screen for the medication induced sudden death causing arrythmias. In addition, these patients have been taken off any drugs that can prolong the “QT interval” such as antidepressant and antihistamines and increase the likelihood of sudden death.

In addition to the cardiac risks of this medication combination, there is a concern that the medication can cause retinal damage and vision loss. We routinely obtain slit lamp exams on rheumatology patients requiring hydroxychloroquine as a treatment before and during their therapy.

There is also concern over patients who need the medication not being able to obtain it due to hoarding. In certain states, the Governor, by executive decree, has forbidden pharmacies to dispense the medications unless the patient has a documented positive test for COVID-19, or they carry a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus.

As a patient and citizen, what you should be doing is pestering your state representative, Governor, Congressman, Senator and the President and demanding easy access to testing for COVID-19. Despite reassurances from the White House and Governor of Florida, it is virtually impossible to be tested outside a hospital in Palm Beach County, Florida.

If you are ill and concerned about having COVID-19 call the office and we will talk about it and discuss the options. A drug combination like azithromycin (Zithromax) and hydroxychloroquine is a desperation “Hail Mary” approach to treating Coronavirus and, hopefully, with social distancing you will not need it.

Call me if you wish to discuss this and please STAY HOME unless you absolutely need to go out.