A Florida man suffering from COVID-19 credits an anti-malaria drug, touted by President Donald Trump as a promising treatment for the flu-like coronavirus disease, for saving his life, Fox affiliate KTTV in Los Angeles reported.
Rio Giardinieri, 52, said in an interview published Sunday that he was in the intensive care unit at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, on oxygen.
Staff told him there was little more they could do. Giardinieri said his final goodbyes to his wife and three children Friday.
Then a friend sent him an article about the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been floated as a potential treatment for COVID-19, and insisted he take it.
Giardinieri contacted an infectious disease doctor, who advised him of the many risks, but eventually agreed that his case was so desperate he had little to lose by taking the medication. Thirty minutes after getting the doctor’s approval, Giardinieri was given the drug.
He had an episode of a racing heart and more difficulty breathing after about an hour, and then another two hours after that. Giardinieri said hospital staff gave him Benadryl and another medication that allowed him to sleep. At 4:45 a.m. Saturday, he awoke “like nothing ever happened.”
Giardinieri, an executive with a company that manufacturers cooking equipment for high-priced restaurants in Los Angeles and other major cities, said hospital doctors think the episodes were the virus progressing through his system, not a reaction to the hydroxychloroquine.
“To me, there was no doubt in mind that I wouldn’t make it until morning,” said Giardinieri, who believes he contracted the coronavirus at a conference in New York. “So to me, the drug saved my life.”
“Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0” actor Daniel Day Kim has also hailed hydroxychloroquine as critical to his recovery from COVID-19.
“I won’t say this is a cure and I won’t say definitively that you should go out and use it, but what I will say is that I believe it was crucial to my recovery,” Kim told the New York Post. “Obviously I am not a doctor, nor am I a lawyer — though I have played them on TV.”
Kim and Giardinier’s testimonies come as the president faces heavy scrutiny for his statements about hydroxychloroquine.
The president on Saturday expressed his hope that hydroxychloroquine and azithroymycin, an antibiotic, be put into use “immediately.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
Critics have accused Trump of misleading the public about the efficacy of the drug, which experts say is still clinically unproven.
Former New York Times reporter and Conde Nast editor Kurt Eichenwald said Trump’s advice “can kill you.”
Do NOT LISTEN TO TRUMP ABOUT MEDICATION. His advice can kill you
He is pushing a cominbntion of hydroxychloroquine (for types of malaria and autoimmune diseases) and Azithromycin (an antibiotic) THIS COMBINATION CAN KILL YOU. …
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) March 22, 2020
MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance, whose background is in military affairs, said Trump was “ignorantly pushing” the anti-malaria drug as a cure.
— Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) March 20, 2020
Like Trump, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has touted hydroxychloroquine as a promising potential treatment for coronavirus.
The FDA has approved the use of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 symptoms on an experimental basis, but officials said widespread availability – due to concerns about testing for side effects was still a long way off.
“There’s promising information to say that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine may work based on laboratory studies, but that needs to be confirmed with human studies,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCLA.
Nigerian officials said on Sunday that two people had been hospitalized for chloroquine poisoning, according to Bloomberg.
Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control warned against the use of chloroquine to treat COVID-19.