People across the US have come forward to call the powerful drug endorsed by President Trump, describing it as a ‘miracle’ coronavirus treatment as New York state officials announce they will start trials with the medication on Tuesday.
On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will doctors will start trialing hydroxychloroquine this week after the number of coronavirus cases in New York City alone rose to 12,000, an increase of more than 3,000 overnight.
The drug has not yet been proven as effective in battling the virus, but President Donald Trump drummed up excitement over it when he called it a ‘game changer’ last week. There are a number of people coming forth saying they have recovered from the Coronavirus by taking a drug that has been used for combatting malaria. Yes, malaria!
A Florida man says his severe coronavirus case was cured overnight by an anti-malaria drug touted by President Trump says he’s feeling good a week later — but has warned others not to try the “dangerous” drug at home.
Rio Giardinieri, 52, said he returned to his Miami Shores home Tuesday night and is recovering well after being prescribed hydroxychloroquine, according to Yahoo News.
“Man, I’m alive and kickin’. I’m Feeling good,” Giardinieri told the outlet. But he warned people not to take the “game-changing” drug without a doctor’s consent.
“The one thing that scares me to death is people taking these stories and going out and self-diagnosing and self-medicating,” said Giardinieri. “They can’t do that. They’ve got to go to a doctor.”
He said he has received messages on social media from people asking him how to take hydroxychloroquine.
“I’m like, ‘No no. You got this wrong. It’s a dangerous drug. Don’t take this unless it’s being prescribed and you get your dosage based on your weight and your size and how your body reacts,’” he said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House coronavirus expert, said more work was needed before it could be heralded as a solution. But people like Rio Giardinieri, Margaret Novins and Lost star Daniel Dae Kim are praising the drug for saving their lives.
Here are some of the infected patients who have credited the medication for the improvement in their condition.
RIO GIARDINIERI: FLORIDA
Giardinieri, who is the vice-president of a company that manufactures cooking equipment for high-end restaurants in Los Angeles, said his doctors administered the drug as a last hope for his recovery.
The 52-year-old believes he contracted the virus during a conference in New York and immediately fell ill with a fever for five days, back pain, headaches, a cough and fatigue.
“I was at the point where I was barely able to speak, and breathing was very challenging,” he told Fox 6.
He went to Joe DiMaggio Hospital in South Florida, where doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and coronavirus. Giardinieri explained that he was placed on oxygen but he was still unable to breath. After a week, doctors told him there was nothing else they could do and on Friday evening he said goodbye to his wife and three children.
‘I really thought my end was there. I had been through nine days of solid pain and for me, the end was there, so I made some calls to say, in my own way, goodbye to my friends and family,’ he told the news site.
Giardinieri said a friend then told him about the anti-malaria drug. He immediately asked a doctor to administer the medication. He then explained what came next, including the moment when he felt like his heart was beating out of his chest.
“They had to come in, and get me calmed down, and take care of me,” Giardinieri said.
But then the next morning he says he ‘woke up like nothing ever happened’ and feeling much better. The doctors said they don’t believe Giardinieri’s episode was a reaction to the anti-malaria drug but instead was likely the virus progressing in his body.
“To me, the drug saved my life,” Giardinieri said.
MARGARET NOVINS: NEW JERSEY
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, where there are more than 2,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and 27 deaths, Novins had a very similar experience. She told Forbes that she began feeling ill on March 8 and by March 15 she ‘couldn’t breathe’. Novins said she was initially diagnosed with pneumonia before getting more test results back on March 19 that showed she was positive for coronavirus.
The 53-year-old said her doctors categorized her as ‘critical’ and she was given the hydroxychloroquine drug. When she woke up on Saturday her fever was gone, which is ‘fantastic’, she said. Novins told the news site that her doctor ‘insisted the pharmacy get it to me the minute we got the positive’.
“It seemed like their go-to right away.”
JEFF HENSLEY: NORTH CAROLINA
In North Carolina, Jeff Hensley, 57, was hospitalized over the weekend with labored breathing after he tested positive for COVID-19. The Harnett County man started feeling sick on March 4 while working in Hawaii. According to The News & Observer, Hensley had asked to be tested for the virus three times after returning to North Carolina on March 7. His wife told the news site that her husband was finally admitted and ‘is on oxygen’.
She said doctors are currently treating him with the anti-malaria drug. Though the drug is not FDA approved his wife says she’s glad he’s being treated with it.
LOST STAR DANIEL DAE KIM: HAWAII
Taking to Instagram on Saturday evening the 51-year-old said he felt ‘back to normal’ and had not needed hospital treatment. Kim, who will remain in self-isolation until Monday, claimed to ‘have no symptoms’ other than congestion and believes that the antimalarial drug Hydroxychloroquine was the ‘secret weapon’ to his recovery.
“I am happy to report that my progress has continued and I practically feel back to normal. I am lucky enough to be in the 80 per cent of diagnosed cases that have not required hospitalization,” revealed the Hawaii-based actor in the nearly seven-minute video.
Kim’s personal physician prescribed him a ‘drug cocktail’ that consisted of the antiviral medicine TamiFlu, the antibiotic Azithromycin, a Glycopyrrolate inhaler, and the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Though all of the medicines worked in conjunction to aid in Kim’s healing process, the actor stated that hydroxychloroquine was the ‘secret weapon.’
According to Kim, the drug ‘has been used with great success in Korea in their fight against the coronavirus’. There are currently no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19. Researchers are studying existing treatments and working on experimental ones, but most current patients receive only supportive care such as breathing assistance.
Potential treatments like malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are in short supply as demand has surged with the rapid spread of the outbreak. Some states have already taken steps to limit prescriptions of the drugs to those who need them most.
A French study, carried out on 20 patients earlier this month, is highly preliminary and was non-randomized. However, it did find that six patients who received a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin had their viral load reduced faster than those on either hydroxychloroquine alone or neither of the drugs.
Hydroxychloroquine is a high-power drug used to treat malaria, which is a parasitic infection, as well as some non-infectious inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Azithromycin is a fairly common antibiotic that is used to treat a number of bacterial infections, such a strep throat. Neither drug has been previously indicated to treat a viral infection such as coronavirus, although there were anecdotal reports of hydroxychloroquine being used successfully to treat SARS, a close relative of coronavirus.
Last week, the University of Minnesota put out a call for 1,500 people to sign up to a clinical trial to determine if hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication, is effective in treating coronavirus. The trial is being led by Dr David Boulware. He has asked for 1,500 people who have been recently exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 to come forward to take part.
Ideally, they want to treat healthcare workers to hopefully provide a prevention from them catching the virus. The test would involve drugs being sent overnight to 1,500 people who want to participate. Half would receive the malaria medication and half would receive a vitamin.
On Friday, Boulware said the president had become ‘very excited’ about the trial but that more needs to be done before it can be rolled out. However if it works, it could stop people from becoming infected within three days of being exposed. The drug costs just US$12 and has already been approved by the FDA for treating malaria and arthritis. They want to sign up people with high risk exposure to see if they can stop them from catching it.