Coronavirus News: Long Island doctors embrace combination drug therapy in fighting COVID-19

PLAINVIEW, Nassau County (WABC) -- Doctors on Long Island are using some decades-old medication with promising results in fighting the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Ryan Saadi, of Quantaira Health, partnered with Dr. Muhammad Alam at Plainview Hospital and Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad, a Harvard-trained epidemiologist and pulmonologist in Florida, to use the much-talked-about hydroxychloroquine combined with the antibiotic doxycycline.

The combination therapy was administered to dozens of high-risk COVID-19 patients at three long term care facilities on Long Island. They say most of those patients have now fully recovered.

"I'll be honest with you, this was not something I was expecting to see," Dr. Saadi said.

Although impressive, not everyone completed the therapy with positive results.

Out of 54 patients with a median age of 67, nine of them did not complete the six-day therapy due to side effects, a hospital transfer, and three of them died.

The results of the small group study were submitted to a major medical journal for review. A total of 45 COVID-19 patients did complete the combination therapy successfully and clinically recovered.

"Forty-five patients, and these are high risk, and they completely recover?" Dr. Saadi said. "I mean, that number is powerful. We have to look into that."

The FDA has not approved the combination therapy for use against COVID-19 and urges the public to avoid using the drugs at home.

ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton says the therapy still needs to undergo a clinical trial.

"When you do a clinical trial, we need to study a lot of patients," she said. "The smaller the number in a trial, the less valid the results are thought to be. So while we are always looking for promise and hope, it is really important to think critically."

Dr. Saadi agrees and said this is a situation of urgency, and a clinical trial can happen in two to three weeks.

It is a race to give suffering families some relief potentially.

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