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Local infectious disease doctor explains confusion surrounding hydroxychloroquine

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 7:33 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) -Hydroxychloroquine has been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks.

Novant Health physician are treated some of the most severe cases of coronavirus with...
Novant Health physician are treated some of the most severe cases of coronavirus with hydroxychloroquine(Newspath)

The president has said doctors should be open to trying it, but some have pushed back, saying it’s not clear if it’s safe for COVID patients.

There are reports that some patients have died from side effects of this drug. And, some people have recovered after using it.

We reached out to an infectious disease specialist at Huntsville Hospital to find out that answer.

Dr. Ali Hassoun tells us the reason there is so much confusion is because there are not large group studies available.

He says the drug is approved by the FDA, but not specifically for COVID-19.

So he says doctors are having to look at smaller case reports.

Dr. Hassoun tells me he *is* prescribing the drug to about half of his patients who have COVID-19.

He says people with more mild symptoms don’t need it.

I asked him if he thinks it’s effective in treating the virus.

He tells me it’s difficult to tell whether patients are improving because the virus has run its course, or if it’s due to the drug.

Dr. Hassoun says it’s critical to closely watch patients that are taking it.

“The main concern is we need to monitor for side effects, including if there is any effect on the heart. People need to be closely monitored. Make sure they do regular testing on them. Because a lot of those who are really sick have a lot of other comorbidities. In any drug there’s chances of toxicity and problems, including hydroxychloroquine,” Dr. Hassoun said.

There has been another concern about running out of the drug, because it’s also used to treat people with arthritis and lupus.

Dr. Hassoun says they have enough now, but the drug is in high demand.

Dr. Hassoun also says he hopes businesses don’t reopen for at least four weeks.

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