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El Paso doctor weighs in on possible treatments for coronavirus

EL PASO, Texas -- A National Institutes of Health panel has advised doctors against treating coronavirus patients with a drug combination the President has pushed as a "game changer" in the fight against COVID-19.

The panel, made up of experts from the federal government, universities and medical societies, warns of potential toxic side effects from the combination of hydroxychloroquine and antibiotic azithromycin. The group found there was insufficient evidence to show that hydroxychloroquine could be effectively used to treat the virus on its own.

Dr. Sarah Watkins, D.O., assistant professor at TTUHSC El Paso's Health Sciences Center, said the drugs can be dangerous if taken outside a doctor's supervision. She cites that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, another drug touted by the President as a possible treatment, can be dangerous for kids and those with chronic medical conditions.

"It can be really dangerous if you are on certain other medications that it can interact with," Dr. Watkins said. "Or if you accidentally take too much. Unfortunately, people have already died because of taking too much in an effort to prevent getting COVID-19 and there's just really no data to say that it works for that."

She added the race for a treatment has led to a shortage of the drugs for patients who might need them for other conditions.

"We've been getting reports of hoarding of these medications," Dr. Watkins said. "People are just trying to stockpile them in their homes, but unfortunately this limits the availability of these medications to the people who really need it for certain conditions where they've been on it for years, like Lupus."

There is currently no drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19. Dr. Watkins recommends using Tylenol to reduce a fever at home, but only if it is safe for you to do so.

Article Topic Follows: Health

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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