As hospitals fill, doing nothing is no longer an option against COVID-19. This is war.

As hospitals fill, doing nothing is no longer an option against COVID-19. This is war.

By Mary Beth Pfeiffer

 A proven vaccine might yet bring us back from COVID-19 calamity. But make no mistake. Vaccines are the hoped-for, someday ceasefire. Months will pass before, and if, corona’s white flag is raised and the masses saved.

But right now, with a weekly average of 150,000 new U.S. cases daily, we are in the bloody, bitter throes of war.

In the midst of this onslaught, federal policy says to watch, wait and do nothing for the newly sick. “No specific antiviral or immunomodulatory therapy recommended,” states this nation’s COVID-19 care guidelines for outpatients. Instead, sicken in place.

And yet we have an arsenal of drugs, studies and data at the ready. Tapping it may well stop the surge in COVID hospital admissions, which rose 52 percent in just the last two weeks while deaths spiked nearly 40 percent.

Here, if you will, is a list of weapons and strategies to force COVID-19 into retreat now. Ignore them at our peril.

Try ivermectin — now.

This antiparasitic drug, for which the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded in 2015, is the single most promising development since the pandemic emerged. It is a potential cure – a “sleeper hit,” as one doctor called it — that, emerging studies show, prevented infection after exposure; successfully treated patients with early and moderate illness; stopped COVID’s cascade of damage, and spurred recovery in very ill patients. In other words, it helped in every stage.

Ivermectin “has demonstrated profound activity against COVID-19,” an alliance of critical care physicians has concluded. Beyond this, it is safe. “Numerous studies report low rates of adverse events,” a literature review found in 2016, and “a high margin of safety.” In a war, might this be one effective and low-risk weapon we should turn to?

Recognize the role of hydroxychloroquine.

The vilification of this old antimalarial drug will go down in history as a media-fueled debacle that cost lives. We should learn from it. Yes, HCQ fared poorly in some early studies that focused on hospitalized patients with advanced disease. But HCQ’s greatest potential has been documented in the first days of infection and viral replication: 22 early treatment studies showed efficacy, while five others were inconclusive. Treatment even before a positive test with an antibiotic and zinc seem key to success, practitioners say.

“HCQ was found to be consistently effective against COVID-19 when provided early in the outpatient setting,” a treatment review found. That study uncovered reports of heart arrhythmias that were deemed non-threatening.  A separate safety review found this cheap old generic to have “substantially” reduced thrombosis and cardiac events in long-term lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients.  “HCQ should not be restricted in COVID-19 patients out of fear of cardiac mortality,” it said.

Spend the money.

The U.S. has committed $11.2 billion to vaccine development. Yet the search for an actual cure — that might keep people out of hospitals — is barely mentioned. On Nov. 11, nine months into this pandemic, the government issued a press release on the “urgent” need for early treatments, which it outlined in an article authored in part by U.S. COVID Czar Dr. Anthony Fauci. The article discussed several long-running trials for drugs that may help – someday. While inpatient care has improved, it asserted that “effective treatments for people with mild to moderate disease have been more elusive.” Not really.

What is elusive is the willingness and urgency to use them. Instead, it is national policy to let COVID infections fester before any treatments beyond pain relievers and expectorants are given. Then you’ll get care – but in a pricey hospital setting. Early treatment is a bedrock principle for many bacterial and viral infections and for HIV, TB, stroke and heart attack. Why not this?

Give physicians autonomy.

For centuries, medical practice has been part science, part art. FDA policies have long allowed doctors to use drugs off-label, namely for conditions other than for which they were approved, to see what works. But physicians have effectively been barred from following their instinct and experience with COVID-19. About half of states have prohibited or sharply limited the use of hydroxychloroquine, a safe, legal drug, effectively warning doctors not to step outside the lines. Will ivermectin be next?

The larger question, however, is this: Is withholding treatment, especially for older, immune-compromised outpatients, a better alternative than using safe drugs that studies suggest may save lives?

Take lessons from other countries.

The U.S. is failing miserably to control COVID-19. To be sure, it’s in good company with European countries like Belgium, Italy and Spain. But it could learn from less-developed countries like Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and India, where localities are wrestling COVID to a draw. Some made the decision to distribute prevention packets of ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine or a combination. In Haiti, meantime, widespread distribution of ivermectin for parasitic illness lymphatic filariasis may explain its negligible COVID rates.

The U.S. could find out if those distributions made a difference, but have instead given only lip service to treatments. The unfortunate exception is remdesivir. The drug, which costs $3,000 per course and must be given intravenously, was embraced early and inexplicably as a “standard of care.” Despite a host of side effects including kidney failure and poor performance, it was recently approved by the FDA as the first official COVID treatment.

In California, Texas, New York, Virginia and a few other places, a core group of brave physicians is using HCQ and, increasingly, ivermectin. Their clinical experiences align with emerging studies: few hospitalizations, few deaths. Each drug costs perhaps $20 for a typical course. And both already have FDA approval.

There are other simple steps we could take too. Evidence is pointing to the possible COVID-fighting benefits of vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, selenium, quercetin with Vitamin C and other supplements. Quite simply, doing nothing is no longer an option.

Mary Beth Pfeiffer is an investigative journalist, science writer and author of two books. Follow her on Twitter: @marybethpf.

Responses

  1. Link to 11/19 Senate Hearing featuring expert witnesses Drs. Peter McCullough, Harvey Risch, and George Fareed.
    along with Senator Ron Johnson.

    https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/hearings/early-outpatient-treatment-an-essential-part-of-a-covid-19-solution

    Unfortunately the Democrats tried to change the subject. Their witness in opposition (Dr. Ja) could not cite a specific outpatient study where HCQ failed. I t assume though he was referring to the the UK study where they gave toxic dosage – supposedly an error.
    I almost fell to the floor when I heard Dr. Ja say that hundreds of millions of Americans would be getting the vaccine, which has initial side effects similar to Covid and no idea what the long term affects would be.

    As Dr. Risch can explain, it is very possible that around 1/2 of Americans already have a least partial immunity. We only need to vaccinate the most susceptible.

    I could go into much greater detail. Almost no one should need to be hospitalized if we were to follow prophylaxis protocols and the proven treatment protocols that include HCQ, Zinc, Ivermectin, Doxycycline or Azithromycin with steroids and blood thinners as options on a case by case instance. Quercetin is an unregulated safe alternative to HCQ that I use daily myself for prophylaxis.

    Doctors should not wait for a positive PCR test before beginning the treatment protocols, as every day is critical to keep the virus within the replication stage.

  2. Thank you for pointing out that people are dying unnecessarily. No one wants to champion the cheap, generic drugs because they won’t make much money. This is a crime against humanity!

  3. Hello Ms Pfeiffer,

    I read your article with great interest. I also followed the senate hearing closely about early outpatient treatment. I have been writing many letters to our health institutes in Belgium trying to advocate early outpatient treatment by the means of anti viral home kits. I imagine a procedure that would look as follows:

    – contact the general physician when flu or covid-19 like symptoms occur
    – if the physician suspects a Covid-19 case, the patient is asked to get tested.
    – the physician orders the delivery of the anti viral home kit from the local pharmacy to the patient.
    the kit contains an antiviral agent in combination with antibiotics and the well-known vitamins and minerals.
    It also contains simple diagnostic tools for better follow-up and remote diagnosis for the general physician.
    – when the home kit arrives the patient contacts the physician regardless of the progress with the test.
    – the physician applies the diagnostic tools and adapts the viral multi therapy to the patient.
    – after administering the drugs, the physician follows online the disease course via tele-surveillance.

    All of these steps should advance regardless of testing & result duration.
    – If the patient is better, a second test can take place, to confirm the reduction of viral load.
    – If the patient gets worse, the physician decides when it is time to hospitalize.

    We have to get rid of the dogmas:
    – that we cannot treat until we are sure the patient has covid. This is possible with safe and approved antivirals.
    – that viral treatments may only take place in hospital.
    – take the antivirals prior to test results. It will not harm the patient but the opposite can.

    I hope this can be helpful

    Best regards,
    Hein De Waele

  4. While I appreciate and agree with your article, your comment, “The US is failing…” could be rewritten to include the majority of the Westen World.
    Canada, while having one of the earliest trials of Ivermectin, while unintended, has yet to embrace the benefits. We too are sitting on the bench waiting for a unproven vaccine to “Cure” the world, while sending out infected home for 14 days hoping not to see them in hospital. There is no outpatient treatments being provided.

    I feel the the infected are subjects of observation rather than patients of the Canadian medical system.

  5. Here without testing if symptoms starts we prescribe doxy lvermectin and zinc .
    Even peoples are taking these drugs without doctors prescription ..

  6. Suggest you utilize the Right to Try statute and secure leronlimab, a monoclonal antibody produced by Cytodyn, a small biotech company located in Vancouver, WA, USA.
    It is close to finishing their Phase 3 FDA trial for severe/critical patients with COVID-19.

  7. The strange avoidance of anything about ivermectin from either any pharmaceutical company or any medical name or outfit worthy of these pages show a similar style to that of the now defeated Trump.

    The big pharmaceutical companies and yes, the universities that “test” and “look into” all the hopefuls are all striving for dollars to spend on “research” that has probably already been done… for that is really the way Uni’s etc get their dollars, on past research that they have completed but not published.

    Ivermectin cannot fall into any category because it’s been around for so long (the 70’s)

    And asking the FDA or in Australia, the TGA, is like asking them to allow water to be used for thirst ! The doctors are not likely to prescribe a placebo when ivermectin will just outright cure… yes, cure it.

    Ivermectin has been used in malaria prone areas about four billion times… so much so that in those areas people take about 12 mg of ivermectin if they feel malaria coming on.
    This stops them getting COVID-19 at once. These populations have the lowest Covid-19 incidence in the world.

    Early intervention is key to the success with COVID-19 and ivermectin is even used as a prophylactic to quench to virus as it is taken on board by a patient-to-be.

    But woe betide any govt body mention it…

    Ivermectin… there’s no money in it, even for journalists.