MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. (FOX 2) - A Macomb County patient was recently given a drug typically used for malaria that is showing positive results for beating COVID-19.
Jim Santilli said it helped him and he believes it could help others, too.
"I was struggling to breathe. I felt like I was slowly drowning and I was sitting there thinking I'm not going to make it until midnight," he said.
Santilli says the experimental drugs Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin brought him back from the brink. The 38-year old was prescribed the drugs a little more than a week ago at Henry Ford Macomb where he was hospitalized for COVID-19.
He says a doctor told him they'd exhausted treatment options. An infectious disease physician recommended he try both.
"He stated at that point for COVID-19 patients they saw a lot of positive results in China and South Korea it would be advantageous to try it," Santilli said. "Right away I saw improvements in a few hours: the gasping for air stopped; a lot of my symptoms went away, and really it was a turning point almost a 180 degree turn as to what I was experiencing."
The FDA recently approved shipping Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine products to public health authorities across the country to treat severe cases of COVID-19. It said it is reasonable to believe they may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits outweigh the risks.
"It does appear as though Hydroxychloroquine may be beneficial," said Dr. Rudolph Valentini.
Valentini is the chief medical officer from the Detroit Medical Center and says physicians there are already using Hydroxychlorquine to treat some COVID-19 patients.
"It's not a classic antiviral mediation," he said. "One has to be a little suspect before we attribute too much benefit from a medication that's not designed to treat viral infections. I wouldn't get too encouraged by it, at the same time I think we all need hope and we need to have options and this seems to be a safe option."
As for Jim Santilli, he is simply thankful to be alive and says he's living proof of what the drugs are capable of.
"I truly think the American people can have hope that we have something here that works and can help us get through this horrible situation," he said.
FOX 2 reached out to the State Department of licensing and regulatory affairs about Hydroxychloroquine:
"Prescribers and dispensers have a responsibility to apply the best standards of care and use their clinical judgment when prescribing and dispensing these and any other drugs to treat patients with legitimate medical conditions.
Santilli is still in isolation. The Health Department told him it's best he stays in quarantine until three days after all of his symptoms subside. Right now he still has a cough.
Valentini said that in rare cases there can be side effects where people can develop heart and sight problems. And if there's widespread use of Hydroxychloroquine-talking millions of millions of people, we'll likely see those extremely rare side effects come out.
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