Though there are no FDA approved drugs to prevent the coronavirus, some doctors say antimalarial medications and antibiotics could treat COVID-19 symptoms. But, a new study published by Mayo Clinic wants to help healthcare providers safely use these medications to minimize the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death.
Remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine used with azithromycin are currently being tested in clinical trials. Doctors say there are promising therapies to stop the growth of COVID-19. But, a major risk factor in 1 percent of patients could cost their life. That unwanted side effect is drug induced sudden cardiac arrest, which could lead to cardiac death.
Dr. Michael Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, helped write the new article about the heart health risk and how to monitor it in patients who might take these “off-label” medications through something called their QTc.
“That tells us what is the health of the heart’s electrical charging system,” Dr. Ackerman says.
If taking an antimalarial or antibiotic for COVID-19, your QTc needs to be monitored to determine how successful treatment could be. When the QTc is too high for too long it indicates the patient is more susceptible to cardiac death.
“The heart could electrically spin out of control into a dangerously fast rhythm," Dr. Ackerman says.
But your QTc can be monitored easily through an electrocardiogram. There’s even an FDA approved phone app to measure it.
“There’s a healthy range of QTc values," Dr. Ackerman says."That’s roughly 360 to 460 milliseconds.”
He says the study will hopefully help doctors know from the start their patient’s safety margin for the drugs to be therapeutic before it becomes deadly.
Antimalarial and antibiotics to treat COVID-19 should only be taken under doctor instruction and supervision. Dr. Ackerman says if these "off-label" drugs, which are still in clinical testing, prove to be effective, it could help 90percent of COVID-19 patients. It’s the 1 percent at risk of cardiac death that monitoring the QTC is key.