PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Islanders hospitalized with COVID-19 have received treatments like Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and convalescent plasma, according to a medical director with the R.I. Department of Health. All are experimental ways that doctors are trying to tackle the virus, since there is currently no FDA-approved treatment.
“The treatment for most people is largely supportive, which means unfortunately, like the flu, you just have to have it let it run its course,” explained Dr. Philip Chan, a medical director with the state health department. “For people who are critically ill, some of these newer drugs like Remdesivir are being studied and they block various aspects of the virus replication.”
Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug originally produced to combat Ebola.
“It’s the only drug that’s really demonstrated efficacy in treating COVID-19,” Chan said.
While the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine was touted initially as a potential breakthrough treatment for COVID-19, Chan said the results in patients have been lackluster.
“As many people know when COVID-19 first came out there was a lot of hype and lot of promise with this drug hydroxychloroquine,” he said. “To tell you the truth, it hasn’t panned out. A lot of us are moving away from it more and more.”
Now Chan says the two go-to treatments for hospitalized patients in Rhode Island are Remdesivir and convalescent plasma, which is taken from the blood of people who’ve previously had COVID-19.
He said these treatments are only available in the hospital, and not for people who are sick with the virus in nursing homes or other congregate care settings.
“Treatment for people in nursing homes at this time is largely supportive,” he said, “It’s Tylenol, fever-reducing medication, it’s hydration, you can do IV fluids, et cetera, but there’s not great treatment. Early on we tried things like hydroxychloroquine, and it hasn’t really been effective. We’re still seeing really high mortality rates in a lot of the nursing homes in Rhode Island.”
Currently, only those who are hospitalized with serious symptoms caused by COVID-19 like low oxygen levels or pneumonia, are eligible to receive Remdesivir or Hydroxychloroquine.
Chan said he’s hopeful researchers will find or development an effective treatment soon.
“I think what’s unique about COVID-19… it really causes an overactive immune response,” Chan said. “In fact people that get really sick and die, a lot of times it’s because their own immune system is really causing this inflammatory response to the lungs and the body. There’s a lot of medications now being tried to work to hamper the immune response and bring it more under control.”