Hydroxychloroquine used to treat COVID-19 patients at Bayonne Medical Center

The use of the drug against coronavirus is controversial

As the COVID-19 death toll climbs in Hudson County, potential cures or treatments have been the talk of the nation.

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and lupus, has become a household name after President Trump repeatedly promoted it. Now it’s in use at Bayonne Medical Center, given to patients battling COVID-19.

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According to Trump, the United States has accumulated a stockpile of the drug that he calls a “game changer.” The President has repeatedly told Americans to take Hydroxychloroquine if they are concerned that they might be infected with the virus.

Opinions are mixed regarding the effectiveness and side effects of Hydroxychloroquine. While Trump peddles the drug, some officials have said that the downsides of Hydroxychloroquine are too great to ignore, including irregular heart rates that increase the risk of a potentially fatal heart arrhythmia.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is a leading expert and senior adviser during the ongoing crisis.

Fauci has, on a number of occasions, said that there is no clinical evidence that supports the claims that Hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment against COVID-19. Fauci has said that there has been nothing more than anecdotal evidence of the drug’s efficacy.

Fauci was prevented by President Trump from answering questions about Hydroxychloroquine at a press briefing on April 5, saying Fauci has answered the same question many times before.

Despite the mixed signals from the federal government, some doctors are using the drug to treat COVID-19 patients across the country. The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for donated hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate for clinical trials and possible use in treating COVID-19 patients.

This move came after major drug companies, including Baer Pharmaceuticals, donated more than 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate to the Department of Health and Human Services toward the Strategic National Stockpile.

What does this mean for Bayonne?

Now Bayonne is involved in the unfolding national debate over Hydroxychloroquine. It was recently revealed that some hospitalized residents in the city were prescribed the drug to combat the virus.

The Bayonne Office of Emergency Management (OEM) made the revelation in the daily COVID-19 update on April 6.

“Doctors at BMC have informed us that they have been using Hydroxychloroquine and other therapies, on some patients,” according to OEM. “Although scientific data isn’t available, doctors state they have seen some success.”

Dr. Vijay Singh, Director of Hospitalist Medicine at Bayonne Medical Center, confirmed on April 14 that the drug was in fact being used to treat most COVID-19 patients at the hospital.

Dr. Singh iterated that BMC is using it and seeing some good results on patients. However, right now it appears that is the only option these doctors have at the moment.

“With no visible treatment in sight, Hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin and some multivitamins, appears to have an overall have positive impact on the recovery of patients with COVID-19,” Dr. Singh told the Bayonne Community News.

However, there is no prospective data on the drug at the moment, according to Dr. Singh, as studies and clinical trials of Hydroxychloroquine are still ongoing.

It’s difficult to determine if the patients recovered from the prescription of Hydroxychloroquine, other therapies, or even a placebo, Dr. Singh said.

While doctors at BMC are being careful with drug, not prescribing the use of Hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients with underlying heart conditions, most COVID-19 patients at the hospital are being treated with the drug.

OEM noted that Bayonne Medical Center has released approximately 50 residents to recover at home. An overwhelming number of residents infected with COVID-19 are recovering at home.

Whether Hydroxychloroquine played a role in their recovery is yet to be determined.

Currently, there is no known cure or vaccine for COVID-19. According to Gov. Phil Murphy and the CDC, the best way for residents to avoid contracting the virus is to follow the stay-at-home order, practice social distancing by remaining six feet away from others at all times, and to wash hands frequently for the proper amount of time.

As of April 14, there were 90 residents who have recovered from COVID-19 in Bayonne.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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