Ed Puskas: Get medical advice from a trusted source

Star Beacon Editor Ed Puskas

I am not a doctor. Nor do I play one on TV.

So you’ll have to get your medical advice elsewhere. Try a 24-hour cable television network, a radio show or maybe some random Twitter account.

Or maybe seek it out from an old-fashioned source. Say, a doctor. Better yet, your doctor. I know it sounds quaint, but isn’t that still the best way to figure out how to stay healthy or get better if you happen to be down with the sickness?

But in these unprecedented and trying times, we increasingly seem to turn to odd — if not outright ridiculous — sources as long as they confirm what we hoped.

Take hydroxychloroquine.

Wait. I don’t mean take it literally. I mean, hydroxychloroquine is a drug that some people — who also are not doctors and don’t even play them on TV — seem to know a lot about.

Well, they say they know a lot about it.

President Donald Trump has crowed often about the drug’s effectiveness as a cure and a preventative for COVID-19. He claims to have taken a 14-day course of hydroxychloroquine.

Fox News talking heads like Sean Hannity have also pushed the drug, which has been used to treat malaria and has also been shown to be effective for those who suffer from lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

One of Hannity’s frequent guests is the ubiquitous and Cleveland-born Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is, in fact, a doctor and also plays one on TV. Oz also is a proponent of hydroxychloroquine.

But as you probably are aware, not everyone shares the opinions of Trump, Hannity, Oz and others who believe the drug may be the answer for those who contract COVID-19.

Others say the drug is unproven for coronavirus treatment or for preventing infections. Detractors point to myriad possible side effects, including some that can be life-threatening, including heart and liver problems.

Hydroxychloroquine apparently can also affect people’s mental health, with depression, anxiety, hallucinations and thoughts of suicide.

Depending on the day, those on both side of the hydroxychloroquine issue seem to cite studies which support their arguments. Those pushing the drug — no pun intended — cite the anecdotal testimony of doctors who have used it with success in treating coronavirus patients. Those against it cite studies they prove it has no discernible effect on patients with COVID-19.

Like most everything else today, the drug has become a political football, with many on the right claiming that those who oppose the drug’s use do so only because it has Trump’s endorsement. You’d like to think that political leanings wouldn’t get in the way of perhaps saving lives that might otherwise be lost in a pandemic, but this is where we are today.

Some on the left call the President’s rave reviews bad medicine because of the drug’s potential harm.

So who do you believe?

When in doubt, talk to your doctor.

That’s why I think Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine made the right call when he urged the Ohio pharmacy board to reconsider a state-wide ban on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.

The board had issued the ban on Wednesday, but after public feedback — much of it from the medical community — and DeWine’s urging, it reversed course a day later.

Many drugs have been shown to be effective in treatment of medical issues beyond their original scope.

Raloxifene, for example, was developed to treat osteoporosis, but was approved by the FDA in 2007 to reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

Thalidomide began as a sedative and was later prescribed by doctors to prevent nausea in pregnant women. Unfortunately, the drug caused profound birth defects. But in 1998, it began to be used to treat leprosy and in 2006, it was approved for treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer of bone marrow. 

Hydroxychloroquine might prove to be one of those multiple-use drugs if you’re sick with COVID-19, not getting better and out of options. It might also be too risky for you.

But that decision should be made between you and your doctor. And it shouldn’t be a political football one way or the other.

ED PUSKAS is Editor of The Star Beacon. Write him at epuskas@starbeacon.com and follow him on Twitter, @Ed_Puskas.

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