Many of my patients have asked me, “What do I think of the recommendation to use hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19?”
After the president went on national television Sunday, April 5 promoting the medication hydroxychloroquine to prevent and treat COVID-19 coronavirus, many of my patients have asked me what I thought of his recommendation.
Here’s what I answered when it comes to prevention.
It has not been studied. Without rigorous, scientific clinical trials, no one can say if it’s effective or perhaps more importantly, safe.
Hippocrates teaches us first do no harm; second do what’s in the best interest of the patient.
Based on this, I cannot agree with the president or anyone who says, “We should try it. Maybe it works. Who knows?
Hydroxychloroquine is an immunosuppressant, meaning that it suppresses the immune system. It’s used to treat overactive immune system diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
When fighting infection of any kind, especially the likes of COVID-19, we need an intact immune system. Period. End of story.
From my education, training and experience it defies logic and science that an immunosuppressive drug would prevent getting a serious infection like COVID-19. On the other hand, who knows or who will know, until it has been researched?
There’s yet another issue. Hydroxychloroquine has many toxic side effects. These include bone marrow suppression, liver failure, visual impairment and cardiac arrhythmias. Obviously, it’s not soda pop.
So while it may or may not work to prevent COVID-19 infection, these serious side effects may preclude its universal application for prevention.
I wouldn’t recommend it for my friends and loved ones. I certainly wouldn’t take it myself or recommend it to my patients. I can’t imagine saying to them, “Well you didn’t get COVID-19, but you’re blind, your liver’s failing, your bone marrow’s shot and now you’re prone to fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
Remember the mantra? First do no harm; second do what’s in the best interest of the patient.
At least for now I’m giving it an emphatic two thumbs down and urging you to follow CDC advice: shelter down, wear a mask, wash your hands and observe the six foot rule.