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Medications in the time of coronavirus

Photo of medication bottles and pills (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

As cases of COVID-19 mount, the search is on to identify existing medications that can quell the symptoms or even prevent them.

Scientists around the world are working in earnest to diminish, prevent, or eradicate COVID-19, and early medication trials are already underway. The rapid discoveries produced by the studies are no doubt progress toward curbing the effects of the pandemic. But because of the urgency, the efficacy, side effects, and true associations of these medications may not be fully understood. This could lead to unintended consequences.

You may have already heard news reports of commonly prescribed medications that could be the solution to the coronavirus. Are these reports too good to be true? Are there side effects to consider? Carmel Dyer, MD, a geriatrician at UT Physicians Center for Healthy Aging in Bellaire, provides information to help you make sense of the current news concerning medications.

Strong medicine could lead to serious side effects

A strong medication doesn’t necessarily mean a better medication, said Dyer, executive director of the Consortium on Aging and executive vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Some of the medications proposed are potent and could have serious, even fatal side effects. In some instances, the cure, especially for those with mild cases of COVID-19, could be worse than the disease itself. These medications – many of which are only available in hospitals and through tightly regulated clinical trials – can also be toxic, especially in older people.

Listen to your health care provider

Whether you are considering adding a new medication to your treatment regime, it is critically important that you consult with your health care provider. Equally as important, Dyer said, do not stop taking your routine medicine without consulting your provider. Stopping a medicine could lead to health complications that make you more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and other illnesses.

This is no time for hoarding

Seeing news reports of people hoarding everything from toilet paper to hand sanitizer may tempt you to hoard medications. Please don’t, Dyer implores. Hoarding medications greatly limits the available supply to those who truly need the medicine. Also, hoarding and taking medication you may not need puts your own health at risk.

Take a break from the news

Whether you are watching news about the next new hope for a COVID-19 cure or reports of the pandemic’s impact around the world, the 24/7 news cycle can take a toll. Dyer recommends taking occasional breaks from the news to reduce stress. Heightened stress can lower the strength of your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Turn off the news for a while, Dyer said. It’s good for your health.

The bottom line

When it comes to medications for COVID-19, we need to wait on the evidence to determine if it is the right answer for each patient, Dyer said.

Until then, keep you and your loved ones protected through physical distancing and thorough handwashing. And always, if you have any concerns or questions, ask your UT Physicians doctor about your specific needs.

Stay informed by following updates on the UTHealth COVID-19 resources pageHarris County Public HealthTexas Department of State Health ServicesCDC, and World Health Organization.

Media inquiries: (713) 500-3030

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