Coronavirus

NY to start experimental treatments for COVID-19

A combination drug therapy and plasma serum will be tested on the state’s sickest patients.

Cuomo announcing delivery of supplies at the Javits Center on Monday.

Cuomo announcing delivery of supplies at the Javits Center on Monday. Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s Department of Health would begin testing an experimental drug therapy and plasma treatment as possible treatments for COVID-19.

Cuomo said that the Federal Food and Drug Administration gave the department approval to move forward with a combination drug therapy of hydroxychloroquine and zithromax to treat extremely ill COVID-19 patients. On Sunday, the governor said that the state has purchased “70,000 doses of Hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of Zithromax and 750,000 doses of Chloroquine,” in anticipation of drug trials that will begin on Tuesday. 

Chloroquine, a treatment for malaria, made it into the news last week, after President Donald Trump listed the drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19. However, there is only “anecdotal evidence” that chloroquine could be a viable treatment for the virus, according to director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci. And only drug trials will be able to prove the effectiveness of the malaria treatment on COVID-19 patients.

The FDA has also given the state permission to begin testing a serum derived from patients that have recovered from the virus, to help sick patients build up their immunity to it. The state will begin asking recovered COVID-19 patients to donate their plasma, used to make the serum, within the next few days. Injecting plasma from recovered patients into sick patients is a technique that has been used to fight off disease since the 1890s and has helped curb numerous outbreaks of the measles, mumps and influenza. Most recently the technique was used to suppress the H1N influenza outbreak in 2013.

"There have been tests that show when a person is injected with the antibodies, that then stimulates and promotes their immune system against that disease," Cuomo said during a press conference. "It's only a trial. It's a trial for people who are in serious condition, but the New York State Department of Health has been working on this with some of New York's best health care agencies, and we think it shows promise, and we're going to be starting that this week."

While neither treatment is expected to produce immediate results in patients, health officials have said that they could shorten incubation periods and have other positive benefits, according to Politico.

The state has also been working toward conducting serological testing – the testing of blood serum – of antibodies to discern who may have already contracted the virus, to better assess its spread. And 22 other drugs that could possibly combat COVID-19 are currently being researched by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

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