coronavirus molecule

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM OUR CMO (CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER) GREGG DENICOLA MD

There is a new phrase I’ve noticed being used regularly. It used to be when discussing travel plans and logistics, we would refer to a time frame. 

“Want to plan a vacation?” Maybe in the fall!
“Try the new sushi place?” Let’s go next month!
“Go wine tasting?” Next weekend!

Now the answer to all of those ideas is the same – “After all of this is over.” Six short words that express simultaneously both despair AND hope.

 I want to discuss 3 important–and possibly life-saving topics:

1. A plea to not ignore your normal health care needs.
2. Our take on the new therapies being touted.
3. The need to test—real or overblown?

I noticed about 10 days ago a patient I am treating for an irregular heartbeat had cancelled his appointment.  He normally sees me to check-in every six months. He has been stable for years. Concerned, I called him. He said-you guessed it-he wanted to “hunker down,” and he would reschedule after “ALL OF THIS IS OVER.”

I convinced him to convert the office visit to a video visit. He needed blood drawn, since he was also on thyroid medication, which could affect his heart rate and his blood sugar was always in the pre-diabetic range. We arranged a curbside blood draw a few days before the video visit.

Sure enough his thyroid level was elevated and required a reduction of his thyroid medication. Unchecked, it easily could have led to a serious arrhythmia. His blood sugar was also higher than usual, which he admitted was due to increased snacking and poor dietary choices during his “hunkering.” 

It is obvious that high cholesterol stays high during a pandemic. Fatty livers are still fatty and those patients need their blood tests to check them.  Moles do not stop their progression to melanoma just because Mr. Newsom tells us to stay home.  

With video visits and curbside lab draws, all of these can be evaluated and managed via telemedicine. We have been doing telemedicine at Caduceus for over six years with excellent results. Of course there are situations where the patient must be seen in person. Since our lobbies and rooms have been infection-free for some time; it is still safer to be seen by your doctor than letting your non-COVID health suffer.

The moral of the story? 

  • Keep your appointments.
  • Convert them to Video Visits.
  • Have your blood drawn curbside.
  • Do NOT wait until “all of this is over” and this message is even more important than preventing the spread of the virus. And it is even more essential than a trip to Costco.

I have examined the evidence to use Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 cases and it is promising.  We have been using it at Caduceus to treat swab positive cases, but it is very hard to find. Some pharmacies are concerned about supply depletion which will lead to lupus patients unable able to refill their prescriptions.  Others say they don’t agree with the indication. Yet others simply deny having any. There is little question the risk/benefit curve points in favor of the liberal use of it in positive cases. If there are no symptoms (e.g. the patient was returning from Europe and tested positive but had no symptoms) it is NOT indicated. 

For any physicians and other care providers reading this, the dose is 400 mg. BID x 1 day, then 200 mg bid x 4 days. Warning-you will need to call around and be prepared to beg. 

Also, Proteus Inhibitors have shown activity against COVID. You may have heard of them as HIV medications.  Current COVID-19 guidelines reserve their use for cases admitted to the hospital.  Both WHO and CDC are advising us AGAINST the use of Tamiflu for COVID, as well as NSAID’s like Ibuprofen.  More importantly, they also now advise against the use of steroids, such as Prednisone or a Medrol dosepak. 

The moral of the story?

  • Although there is no consensus from the specialists on this, as CMO I advise the routine use of Hydroxychloroquine for all swab positive Covid cases with symptoms.
  • It is NOT to be used preventively.  
  • No other drug therapy is currently advised unless admitted to the hospital.

I am sure most of you know Caduceus and PDQ and More Urgent Care has been testing for over a week now. The first day we allowed in-office testing but soon saw the need to screen/test
patients in the comfort of their homes and cars. A video visit is required to receive the order from the provider then the patients are directed to one of our three curbside locations in Orange County to be swabbed. Results currently take a minimum of 2-4 days.  Unfortunately supply of tests being distributed to physicians is  not matching the demand for testing.  The number of test kits being made available is not enough.  We need to test everyone with symptoms or at risk due to exposure. Caduceus has done over 350 swabs so far but could have done thousands more if we had them.

I must respectfully disagree with Washington officials who say if you don’t have symptoms, you do not need to be tested. It is very easy to spread this virus without symptoms. Not every COVID patient knows how they were exposed. The problem with comparing this to the flu or to almost any other virus is that it has such a long incubation period.  For non-nerds that means you can spread it without knowing you have it. And its penetrance is quite high; for non-nerds that means it is VERY easy to catch it, no matter how good your immunity is. To our immune systems COVID is a new enemy, never seen before, which makes fighting it very difficult.  
These are the reasons we are seeing it spread like a wildfire and why officials demand quarantining of everyone to control it.

Worse, it is NOT true that only the old and infirmed are at risk for dying.  The last two deaths I am aware of were a 35 year old and a 24 year old. It appears COVID is a “lung eater.”

If it stops at a sore throat or bronchitis there is a full recovery. But 10-20 % of the time it goes into a full pneumonia, causing a SARS situation. This is more common in vapers. It makes more and more mucus and fluids, which doctors cannot always successfully manage. These victims literally drown while in ICU. 

Despite this plea for more tests, I want to caution AGAINST the new “at-home” test kits. User error is one issue and the accuracy is suspect. There are already knock-offs that are not FDA sanctioned. They may be perfected soon, but as of now, I’d avoid them.

The medical board of California is investigating concierge physicians selling at-home test kits for up to $400.  Besides probably being inaccurate, it is also both illegal and unethical. Current law waives any patient responsibility for COVID-19 screening and swabbing. Do NOT agree to pay cash for any type of screening or swab test.

The moral of the story?

  • If you are sick or have been exposed get tested. We will help.
  • Don’t count on your immunity to save you.
  • Don’t use the new at-home tests quite yet. 

Only by testing as many people as possible can we get our lives back….
“After all of this is over.”

Gregg DeNicola MD
Caduceus Medical Group
Chief Medical Officer

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