Alonso Óscar Pérez Rico
Ministry of Health of Baja California
Expert Contributor

Medications Against COVID-19: Be Aware of Their Effects

By Alonso Óscar Pérez Rico | Tue, 07/28/2020 - 08:00

The COVID-19 pandemic has researchers from around the world studying the use of various medications or the generation of biologics that may serve in the medical treatment or prevent in the future, through inoculation, contagion of the disease.

However, it is still too early for a real cure. As long as there is insufficient evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that doctors and medical associations should not administer unproven treatments to patients with COVID-19 or recommend them to people to self-medicate with them.

Let's talk about some of the drugs that have been circulating on social networks as possible treatments against COVID 19, among them hydrochloroquine and chloroquine. The U/S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of these antimalarial drugs in emergency situations during the pandemic. It then revoked it when these drugs were shown to be likely ineffective and could cause heart problems.

Remdesivir is one of the antiviral drugs being tested. Others include favipiravir, lopinavir, and ritonavir. Additionally, researchers are studying various anti-inflammatory medications to treat or prevent lung injury.

Immunotherapy using plasma from convalescing patients is another study in which people who have recovered from COVID-19 donate blood plasma, which is then used to treat people who are seriously ill with this virus. 

Furthermore, a laboratory study in Australia investigated the possibility of using ivermectin, which is an antiparasitic, as a treatment. In this study, it was shown that the drug decreased the viral load and prevented its replication; however, it is still too early to know if it is effective in treating or preventing the disease.

Dexamethasone is a steroid that, in moderate and severe cases, has reduced inflammatory processes and reduced the time a patient must stay on a ventilator or require assisted breathing. But in no way does it prevent the disease.

In fact, dexamethasone applied to patients with type 2 diabetes causes decompensation, since steroids can have many side effects, when not supervised, so great care must be taken.

It is essential to complete medical studies in a controlled clinical-trial setting to determine if any of these medications or treatments are effective against COVID-19 since the medications could have serious side effects.

The fundamental medical principle is not to cause harm; therefore, a process must be followed: first, write a protocol, then submit it to an ethics committee and also to a biosafety committee and when its safety has been verified, a trial is started and clinically controlled.

While studies and trials are being carried out to find the safest way to treat the disease, the WHO provides updates on the clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) in cases of suspected COVID-19 of different severities – mild, moderate, severe and critical. The health system in our country works in adherence to this protocol.

In Baja California, the BC Plan against coronavirus has been applied since February, which began with the coordination of international health with sanitary filters and health promotion at ports, cruises, airports and customs. It wasn’t until March 17 that the first case of COVID 19 was confirmed in Baja California.

Since then, frontline health personnel have worked hard to help hospitalized patients and have provided proper management to outpatients based on what is indicated in the clinical practice guidelines of the Ministry of Health.

According to the Epidemiological Surveillance System of COVID 19 SINAVE, to date, in our state there are 2,472 people who have recovered from the disease, of whom 1,192 are men (48.2 percent) and 1,280 women (51.8 percent) with an average age of 41 years.

Recently, the General Hospital of Mexicali hosted a visit from the medical and nursing personnel of Sharp HealthCare hospitals and the University of San Diego in California, who pointed out that people with COVID-19 are very complex patients, and that they are treated according to their different characteristics or comorbidities, for which they extended a congratulation to their colleagues from Baja California for the great teamwork that is carried out here, both in personal protection, medical treatment and palliative care for older adults.

As a sector, we are dedicated to protecting the health of the population; however, this is everyone's task. We know that, for the moment, the only option available to avoid infection is social isolation and general hygiene measures. If we have contact with people, we must wear face masks and above all, not expose vulnerable groups, so stay home and don't self-medicate.

In Baja California, we all take care of each other.