Ex-FDA Associate Commish Peter Pitts on COVID-19 Testing, Drug Treatment, Plasma Donation, Personal Protective Equipment


 

Mr. Pitts
Peter Pitts, former FDA Associate Commissioner on COVID-19 testing, drug treatment, and PPE.

President Trump announced Sunday evening that the United States had crossed over a major coronavirus testing milestone, informing reporters that 4.18 million Americans have now been screened — more than France, the U.K., South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, Austria, Australia, Sweden and Canada combined, according to FoxNews.com

President Trump went on to remove a swab testing kit from a box and praised the new testing technologies that could help fight the pandemic, as well as large testing laboratories–such as Quest and LabCorp–that can handle the increased workload over smaller state laboratories, which, he said, respective governors are still relying upon these days. 

Additionally, former FDA Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts said the United States has been able to utilize its medical prowess to focus on the task at hand.   

“Our arsenal of medical weapons to fight the COVID-19 virus (the use of faster and more precise tests, the transformation of existing therapies, the use of experimental drugs, the accelerated development of vaccines) has concentrated the essential attention,” Pitts scribed in his recent op-ed in L’Opinion

Furthermore, Pitts went on to reiterate the common medical belief that rest and hydration are the best courses of treatment for COVID-19 patients sans underlying medical conditions and more vigorous therapies to combat elderly and medically involved Corona Virus sufferers.     

“There isn’t any hard evidence that points to best practice in treating COVID-19,” Pitts explained. “Obviously, for the majority of COVID-19 patients (85 percent), the best course of action is rest and liquids (and TLC where available). It’s the cohort of high-risk patients–older, pre-existing conditions, other health issues–who need more aggressive medical interventions such as HCQ or Remdesivir. These two pre-existing medicines are not preventatives (i.e., vaccines), they may either lessen the symptoms or shorten the course of the virus.” 

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an anti-malaria drug, which is now being used to treat COVID-19. But the medication has faced some opposition. A small study in Brazil had been halted over the risk of fatal heart complications, with 11 of the 81 patients dying after six days of testing.

“It (HCQ) is still being used by physicians if they feel it will benefit a given patient further,” Pitts said. “There are a series of clinical studies being conducted to more thoroughly investigate the use of HCQ to conquer COVID-19 in a variety of patient populations. There was one Brazilian study, that I know of, that was stopped because of cardiovascular risks.”

Remdesivir, an antiviral medication developed by Gilead Sciences, however, seems to be more promising against COVID-19, according to WebMD.com

Moreover, per the FDA, people who’ve overcome the COVID-19 infection can donate their plasma after they’ve fully recovered. Because they fought the infection, their plasma now contains COVID-19 antibodies, and are encouraged to donate their plasma in order to possibly help save lives. 

But there are certain criteria that are required. Individuals must have complete resolution of symptoms for at least 28 days before they donate, or alternatively have no symptoms for at least 14 days prior to donation and have a negative lab test for active COVID-19 disease.

Pitts did recommend to continue to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as cloth masks, gloves, and eyewear. But, as for masks, you should wear them more for the protection of others, not so much for own safety.

However, he did say that your profession should dictate who gets PPE first. And a regular person doesn’t require an N-95 mask–a particulate-filtering facepiece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health N95 standard of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95 percent of airborne particles–should be used by medical professionals. 

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be prioritized by a person’s function: healthcare worker, police officer, firefighter, etc. Masks are something that everyone should wear, not so much to protect oneself but to protect others from you. Also, the average person doesn’t need an N-95 MASK — those are for health workers. 

For more information on COVID-19, log onto the CDC’s website.

— Jerry Del Priore

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