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Dodge County pharmacist producing possible treatment for coronavirus

However, there's limited data on how effective the drug combination is.

MACON, Ga. — If you heard President Donald Trump speak over the past few days, you probably heard him talking about a possible cure for COVID-19. 

Right now, nothing has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning it hasn't gone through the usual round of tests to prove that it works.

However, a Dodge County pharmacist has started producing this drug combination and says he'll provide it free.

"That's the only weapon we have in the war chest right now," said Carter Clements, pharmacist at Rhine Drug Company.

His pharmacy in Dodge County has put together a seven-day treatment for the coronavirus, using two medications: hydroxychlorquine and azithromycin

"Of course, it has to be approved by the patient's physician," Clements said. "We have it available, and we have it for free for anyone who has been exposed or is positive for COVID-19."

So far, they've produced 24 packs.

However, some experts, like Dr. Chris Bland with the University of Georgia's College of Pharmacy, says there's only been one study on the treatment not enough proof that it works.

"Very limited data...very limited patients, there were less than 50 patients in that study that have been touted. It only looked at how well it dropped in the body, not outcomes like hospitalizations and even death," Bland said.

Bland says this treatment should be prescribed only for patients hospitalized, not for out-patient cases. 

"Really, these therapies we're only entertaining for the sickest of the sick in the in-patient hospitalized setting," Bland said. 

He says that's because the treatment has cardiac side effects.

"Each of the drugs in combination have some serious cardiac toxicity with cardiac arrhythmias," Bland said.

Bland says doctors are already seeing an uptick in cardiac problems connected to the drug.

"That's troublesome," Bland said. 

So what are these drugs? First, there's azithromycin, an antibiotic, meant to combat bacteria--not viruses. 

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria drug.

"But it's mainly used in the United States for rheumatoid arthritis as well as lupus," Bland said. 

Bland's concern is that the coronavirus treatment might lead to stockpiling hydroxychloroquine and keep the drug away from people with other diseases who may need it.

Only six people in that study Bland cited received the combination of these two drugs.

"There's very little evidence to support azithromycin or zythromax as part of this combination regardless," Bland said. 

For Clements says he is a little skeptical of the treatment himself but, "if it saves one life, it's worth it," Clements said. 

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