Doctors around the world report that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine appears to be the most effective treatment they have tried for coronavirus patients – but less than half of doctors prescribe it in the US, as in other hard-hit countries like Spain.
A survey of 6,200 physicians around the world shows that while few parts of the world are unaffected by the virus, the pandemic is treated very differently from country to country.
And in some measures, the US is lagging behind the responses of other countries.
For example, an American waits an average of four to five days to get the results back after being tested for COVID-19. Half of the doctors in Europe and most in China receive test results within 24 hours.
Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, an adviser to Sermo, urged countries to understand what works for doctors and governments elsewhere and act quickly to adopt practices that save lives.
Hydroxychloroquine (pictured) was considered the most effective treatment for coronavirus compared to other options than any other in a global study by more doctors around the world
HOW ARE DOCTORS IN THE WORLD TREATING CORONAVIRUS?
Doctors and governments around the world are struggling to test and develop treatments for coronavirus.
While most nations have provided doctors with guidelines to standardize care for coronavirus patients, there are no clinically proven treatments for the devastating infection that has killed more than 55,000 people worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a multinational trial of several treatments, including hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, a drug developed to treat Ebola, which takes place in Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, among others, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand.
The U.S. is not part of the WHO study, but like many other countries, they conduct their own clinical tests of both drugs.
Hydroxychloroquine studies have started in states such as New York, Minnesota and Washington, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency medicine on Sunday for doctors to prescribe to adult and teenage patients when no clinical studies are available to be.
Rapid tests were among the needs identified by physicians around the world and in the US, obtaining test results takes between four and five days – much longer than in most countries
With that shift, the drug should be more widely available and prescribed in the U.S., but as of the Sermo survey, only 23 percent of U.S. physicians reported it was given to COVID-19 patients, far behind many other countries.
In Italy, nearly half of all doctors reported prescribing the drug, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
More than 70 percent of Spanish doctors give the drug to coronavirus patients, as do 41 percent in Brazil, 39 percent in Mexico, and 28 percent in France.
However, it is used even less often in Germany (17 percent), Canada (16 percent), the UK (13 percent) and Japan (seven percent).
Globally, pain killers are still the category of drugs most often given to coronavirus patients, followed by the antibiotic azithromycin, which is sometimes given in combination with hydroxychloroquine, which is the third most commonly prescribed drug.
HOW DO CORONAVIRUS TESTS COMPARE IN THE US WITH OTHER COUNTRIES?
As of this week, it has tested many more people for coronavirus than other countries such as South Korea and Italy.
But that milestone went on for a long time, after the CDC blinded the original test and there were many delays.
Still, the US tests fewer people per capita – a smaller percentage of the population – than South Korea.
And the greater availability of test kits has not yet translated into faster results.
In the U.S., doctors who responded to Sermo’s survey said they waited an average of four to five days to get the results.
Ten percent said their patients wondered whether or not they had COVID-19 for a long time.
Only 14 percent of American physicians said they had results within 24 hours.
In Europe and Japan, half of all physicians had their patients’ test results within 24 hours.
On average, nearly three-quarters of Japanese doctors heard back in a lab a day later, and eight percent had results within an hour.
Protective equipment such as masks, coats and face shields were rated as the most pressing need by most physicians treating coronavirus
HOW COUNTRIES DEAL WITH DELIVERY DISCOUNTS
The clock is ticking in severely affected countries that are experiencing shortages or are waiting to supply fans for critically ill coronavirus patients and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and coats to run out.
Imminent shortages mean tough phone calls about prioritizing groups of people.
Almost all countries – with the exception of China – first give fans to people who have a chance of recovery, those who have the worst and relief workers such as doctors and nurses.
Nearly half of respondents to Sermo’s survey said those who were able to beat the infection were given ventilators first, 21 percent thought high risk of death was a deciding factor, and 15 percent said someone who was a first responder in the coronavirus crisis factor.
But the order of importance of those factors varied from country to country.
In the US, whether someone as a nurse, doctor, health professional, or other first responder played a more important role in whether they were considered first for a ventilator than in most countries.
Japan, France and Italy mainly weighed on the age of a patient.
Brazil and Russia first consider the risk of a particular patient.
However, doctors around the world said personal protective equipment was actually the greatest need.
In fact, in addition to protective gear, doctors said fast COVID-19 test kits were needed even more than fans – although the same may not be true in every location, such as New York City, where fan capacity is expected to be exceeded over the weekend.
Dr. Kamini Doobay, an emergency medicine physician in New York City, said coronavirus is unlike anything she’s seen before. While most doctors around the world said they need PPE more than anything, New York’s primary need is fans
DOCTORS LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE OF THE PANDEMIC
Doctors worldwide agree that the pandemic is far from over.
More than 80 percent of the doctors told Sermo they expect a second wave.
Even more American doctors – 90 percent – expect coronavirus to increase again later this year, although only half of Chinese doctors said the same.
Two-thirds of US physicians also think we are three to four weeks away from the peak of the pandemic in the US.
As a result, 63 percent said the U.S. government should wait at least six weeks to lift the movement restrictions that should slow spread.