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Local doctors have opposing take on using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients

HOUSTON – The Food and Drug Administration has revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus.

The drug has traditionally been used against malaria until the pandemic broke out. President Trump touted hydroxychloroquine and said he took the drug as a preventative.

At Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, dozens of COVID-19 patients have taken the drug, according to Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer.

“Hydroxychloroquine works,” Dr. Varon said. “I know a number of people think that it doesn't but we have treated more than 100 patients in the hospital with hydroxychloroquine and the patients have done well.”

On Monday, the FDA said the drug is not likely to be effective in treating COVID-19 and the benefits no longer outweigh the potential risks, such as heart problems.

“Hydroxychloroquine should have never made it to the FDA emergency use,” said Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

She said the drug can have harmful side effects.

“In our haste to make someone better, we wanted to try everything and sometimes by doing that you actually make it worse,” said Dr. Woc-Colburn.

Dr. Varon believes the treatment is effective, as long as it’s given early to patients and they’re closely monitored in the hospital.

“It usually takes about three to four days before you can start seeing an improvement in patients. By day four or day five, they really do better,” said Dr. Varon.

He plans to continue using the drug until he finds a better alternative.