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Experts weigh in on possible coronavirus treatments

Some drugs are starting to show promise, but they are far from certain

FORT WORTH, Texas — Researchers say there is an unprecedented amount of work being done to study treatments for COVID-19.

President Donald Trump spoke about research during a daily briefing Monday.

“Ten different therapeutic agents are in active trials, and some are looking incredibly successful,” Trump said.

There are trials on treatments for the novel coronavirus going on across the world, but experts like Dr. Crystal Howell, an infectious disease pharmacist at UNT Health Science Center, all say the same thing.

“We don’t know anything as 100 percent will work,” she said. “I actually had to create my own Google Doc to keep up with all the different studies.”

She says some research is promising.

“The one that has the most data with it and the best hope is probably remdesivir,” Howell said. “I would assume that it’s going to be several months before we get the results because it looks like they’re really trying to do it right.”

While not approved by the FDA, the drug has been studied a lot for Ebola and found to be safe.

Jaime Walkowiak leads research at Baylor Scott & White, which has an ongoing study for remdesivir.

“We’re excited. I mean that’s why we took the study on,” she said. “We’re hoping that the data comes out quickly and I do think it will come out quicker than vaccine data.”

Governor Greg Abbott said Monday around 30 people at The Resort at Texas City, a nursing home, are being treated with hydroxychloroquine, a drug also touted by President Trump.

Baylor Scott & White is testing it as a preventive measure for healthcare workers.

“I think that will really help us and give us some data to see if it makes sense to give this to a broader population,” Walkowiak said.

Howell says the drug has dangerous side effects including abnormal heart rhythms, gastrointestinal issues and long-term vision problems.

“It doesn’t have very good data at this point,” she said.

Plasma infusions are also being used as treatment for critically ill patients on ventilators.

Both Carter Blood Bank and the Red Cross have added tabs to their websites for plasma donations to help build up quantities.

To be eligible, a person has to have had a positive COVID-19 test and then a negative test or have gone 28 days without symptoms.

So far the treatment has only been used on a few patients locally.

RELATED: Plasma from former COVID-19 patient used to treat infected person for first time in North Texas

An issue across the board is that studies for infectious disease drugs usually include hundreds of patients, but there hasn’t been time for that to happen much with COVID-19.

“Having only five or six patients is extremely small, and it makes a lot of us very worried,” Howell said.

But there are reasons for hope, too.

“Never before in history, at least that I’m aware of, have we had a new pandemic and had as much information as we already do,” Howell said.

“There are so many people coming together and there are many therapies out there that are showing promise,” Walkowiak said.

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