Three doctors share some words of advice, as well as their own perspective on the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Hana Akselrod, MD
MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
“My first advice is do not panic. It’s a completely unprecedented challenge for all of us, but there are fantastic people on the front lines of it in clinical medicine and in science and on the patient advocacy side and together, we will rise to the challenge on this. I think there is a rich history of patients and physicians and scientists coming together to solve these world-changing diseases. I’m thinking of polio and HIV and smallpox and malaria — we’ve been able to either defeat or control these diseases to the point that either they’re gone from humanity, like smallpox, or we’ve made them treatable and manageable, like malaria and HIV. We’ll get there.
“Right now we’re just in this surge phase where we’re going to see a lot of people get sick at once and we’re trying to space out when that happens, both to preserve our ability as doctors and nurses and health workers to treat people with the resources that we have, and to buy time for medical science to establish which drugs are useful and which drugs are safe.
“For people who are facing a diagnosis of COVID-19, I would recommend that they look at what is available where they are, and ask their doctors and their local medical community if they could be in a trial to get access to a new treatment to help us as the American people, and as a world society, to come to more knowledge on this disease. We have to develop new science and safety-test it and then distribute it to the people that it will help the most.
“To everyone else, whether they’re worried about COVID-19 or know someone who has been diagnosed, or whether it’s just coming to where you are, wash your hands. Observe social distancing. Help us spread the cases out. And do what you’ve got to do to keep yourself and your family healthy and safe.”
Michael Klepser, PharmD, FCCP
PharmD, FCCP, a professor at Ferris State University’s College of Pharmacy
“I’m jumping all over the clinical trial. If it’s me and they said you could potentially get this antiviral, which has shown to have some efficacy, I’m in. Do I want to be treated with hydroxychloroquine? Not really, but if it’s life or death, yeah. I would not be looking at the internet for home remedies. If there is a clinical trial, I’m in. Specifically, if I can get in the Gilead trial with remdesivir, I’d probably really want to get in that one.
“With respect to medications, the big thing still with this disease is the medications are going to be helpful, but they’re not going to reach everybody. Now just from the scope of what we’re predicting for this disease in the next several months, these medications are not coming to market. These medications are not going to be able to get FDA-approved and they may be available for emergency-use authorization, but most likely through clinical trials.
“The best thing is still to be smart, adhere to guidelines for social distancing, and stay at home. And still there’s a lot of people that take that relatively lightly. Think about not just what your exposure is, but anytime you make an exception to an exposure, you have now become exposed to everybody that other individual has been exposed to. And it only takes one time letting your guard down to get infected.
“Also, know that there’s still a lot of influenza out there, there’s still other infections. So, if you can get an influenza test still, rule that out. If you can get an influenza vaccine, get it. These things are going to help the picture be a little bit clearer. Get your pneumococcal vaccine; that’s one of the pathogens that causes some of the super infections. Get that before you get infected with COVID-19.”
Larry Sasich, PharmD, MPH
PharmD, MPH, a consultant for the FDA and the Saudi Arabian Food and Drug Authority, and co-author of Worst Pills, Best Pills
“When it comes to treatment and/or participating in clinical trials, if it’s being sponsored by a reputable company, like a major drug manufacturer, or a major research institution, and the purpose of the trial is to gain regulatory approval and there is a well-written, informed consent form outlining all of the potential risks, that’s a personal decision on the part of the patient that wants to participate. There are none of these drugs that I would recommend the patient take at this time; there are just too many unknowns.”