COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Sumter doctor with three practices in the Midlands is now prescribing a combination of Z-Pak and hydroxychloroquine to try to ease some symptoms of those with COVID-19.
“This is not 100% science and studied yet, but we’re of the opinion, our pharmacist is of the opinion, why not be aggressive and treat these patients?" said Dr. Clay Lowder.
Lowder, who is one of the owners of Colonial Healthcare, said he’s prescribing both drugs for most COVID-19 patients. However, he has been checking their heart history first because the combination of the Z-Pak and hydroxychloroquine has the potential to cause heart problems.
“It does have a risk when you use them together that it could theoretically cause heart block, but we have not seen that at all. We’ve been using it rather aggressively in mild to moderate cases," Lowder explained.
The CDC and FDA have not approved a drug to treat COVID-19, but on March 28, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow hydroxychloroquine to be donated to the strategic national stockpile and distributed to doctors to prescribe to COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Lowder said Colonial Healthcare practices in Sumter, Manning, and Columbia are averaging about 100 COVID-19 tests a day. On Thursday, they received 16 positive test results, which is the highest single-day number they’ve seen since rolling out tests a month ago. Dr. Lowder also explained that his practice has loosened the restrictions on testing for COVID-19 because he said some patients with milder symptoms have tested positive.
"You don’t have to have a fever or barking cough or ache all over to have coronavirus. You can have a loss of taste or loss of smell. Sometimes, it's diarrhea or GI upset," said Lowder.
Even during this busy and stressful time, Colonial Healthcare nurses and doctors call or FaceTime COVID-19 patients every day to check on them.
“COVID’s got a huge delay in the way that the symptoms seem to work. Some people go from mild to moderate, and then they can crash in a hurry over a 3-4 week period. So, what we’ve found is you better check in on them often," Lowder explained.
Lowder said he has tested some COVID-19 patients after their 14-day quarantine to verify they no longer have the virus before they return to work. He believes social distancing and an increase in testing in South Carolina is making a difference in preventing the spread of the virus.