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Why some 'breakthrough' coronavirus treatments aren't standing the test of time

First, many doctors around the world are looking at drugs for different symptoms. Others are looking at different groups, like those very sick on ventilators.


For three months you’ve heard news of breakthrough treatments for drugs for the coronavirus. Then you hear reports withdrawing the breakthrough news. So why is that happening?

First, many doctors around the world are looking at drugs for different symptoms. Others are looking at different groups, like those very sick on ventilators, or those who test positive and have minor symptoms. The news out today on Dexamethasone, shows that this old steroid may show promise in survival rates of very sick hospital patients. 

It targets the inflammation in people whose immune systems overreact causing damage, but for Remdesiviar that is an old antiviral that targets the actual virus and how long a hospitalized patient took to recover. Then there is hydroxychloroquine. 

The FDA pulled emergency use of it, but not for everyone, just for very sick hospitalized patients. It can still be prescribed for people exposed to the virus or those positive without serious symptoms.  LSU Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Fred Lopez says another reason is early sharing of preliminary data.

"There’s a lot of results of trials that’s being disseminated before they’ve undergone the rigorous scientific evaluation,"  Dr. Lopez explained.

He says that sharing of preliminary data, helps doctors but within reason. 

"We’re learning about what people are doing and what might work and what might not work but it doesn’t mean that we should forget about the rigorous review of these trials."

While science is moving at the speed of light, there’s still much more to go.

"We were crawling and and we’re probably still crawling to a certain degree in our understanding of what works and what doesn’t work," he said. 

While we are all desperate for cures, Dr. Lopez says this:

"That’s my best piece of advice is to continue to let the data drive these decisions both at an individual level and at the public health level."

And right now, Dr. Lopez says on the FDA site there are as many as 600 clinical trials going on for the coronavirus. Some are on old drugs and others are for new ones that don’t even have names yet. 

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