Doctors in the United Kingdom are treating some critically ill COVID-19 patients with what's being hailed as two new life-saving drugs. But it is not yet clear if those drugs will help with the current surge of cases in the United States.
Vaccinating against COVID-19 has generated the most hope recently, but the fight to help vulnerable coronavirus victims in ICUs across the country still remains a top priority.
Dr. Thomas Yadegar, medical director of ICU at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, has been working with coronavirus patients who end up with an immune response called a cytokine storm.
"There is a certain patient population that gets admitted to the hospital that develops COVID cytokine storm. And what happens with them is that they rapidly de-compensate. Their oxygen requirements may be very minimal, and then within 12-24 hours, they need to be put on a ventilator."
Over the past nine months, Yadegar has used interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors, which decrease inflammation, to save about 150 patients.
"If used early and aggressively, they can prevent patients from de-compensating, meaning they can prevent patients from needing to go on the respirator. They can prevent patients from going into the ICU, but they need to be used early and aggressively," Yadegar said. "Not all the patients that are hospitalized can be treated with this, so it's not a one-size-fits-all."
In the U.K., researchers are also using two anti-inflammatory medications to treat ICU patients who deteriorate quickly by administering the drugs by drip.
Researchers say they have cut deaths by a quarter in patients who are sickest with COVID-19.
Just like Yadegar has found, IL-6 inhibitors can lead to promising results for patients hit hardest by the virus.
"There's definitely hope, especially at this moment where we are in critical shortage for ICU beds," he said. "Once these effective therapies are used, then they can definitely alleviate some of the stress on the system."
Could 2 new drugs used to treat COVID in UK work in US?