CLEVELAND — There has been a lot of talk lately of the drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) being used to treat patients with COVID-19.
"What do you have to lose? Take it," President Trump said during a recent White House press conference. "I really think they should take it, but it’s their choice and it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine, try it if you’d like."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a household name as part of the White House coronavirus task force, said this should not be considered a "knockout drug."
So where do we stand with hydroxychloroquine?
3News' senior health correspondent Monica Robins talked with Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist and emergency doctor with University Hospitals, to dig a bit deeper into the antimalarial drug, which has also been used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Marino said more research is needed to determine its success in treating COVID-19 patients.
"The way we do research and conduct studies and gather evidence has evolved over decades and centuries for very good reason because of unethical experimentation on humans," Dr. Marino said. "It seems very hopeful to use these sick people, a last resort. Any benefit can be attributed to the drug [and that's] what people are going to believe. But there’s also a good chance that we could be harming these people even worse. There’s no way to say that without getting better evidence first."
He said usage of HCQ can cause serious heart problems for some people, adding that more clinical trails are important.
Dr. John Torres, a medical correspondent for NBC News, echoed Dr. Marino's sentiments during an interview with Hoda Kotb on Tuesday's edition of TODAY.
“Potentially, you could lose your life because there is one side effect with hydroxychloroquine -- you could get a heart arrhythmia. You can get your heart beating erratically and that can cause problems, especially if it’s taken in conjunction with an antibiotic. People talk about azithromycin because that also has the same side effect. It doesn’t happen often, but we don’t always know who it’s going to happen to."
Dr. Torres said there have been some positive results with the drug found in labs and really small studies that "might be a little hopeful."
"We can’t put anything on our hopes," he said. "We have to put stuff on scientific data. So to say, ‘Hey, just go out and take it. What harm can it do?’ It could potentially do harm. Every medicine has side effects. This one is not unique in that. Trust me, as doctors, we’re as desperate as anybody to get medicine that can help with this. But we need to wait more on this one. We need more clinical trials to find out if this can actually work and not cause more harm than good.”
Robins said the drug is being studied clinically here in the United States. It's also being used in compassionate care "when no other options are available."