Dr. Gregg DeNicola is one of the first doctors in Southern California to develop a cohesive treatment plan for COVID-19 that includes the widely debated drug hydroxychloroquine—and he told The Epoch Times he’s seen only positive results.
“A couple [patients] look you in the eye and say, ‘I think I’m going to die,’” DeNicola said. But none of the Laguna Beach-based doctor’s 95 COVID-19 patients have died yet, and he credits hydroxychloroquine with helping to save them.
The use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, has divided opinion since it was first suggested. On May 18, President Donald Trump announced he had been taking the anti-malaria drug for over a week, as a preventive measure.
But on May 27, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. The World Health Organization paused clinical trials of the drug on May 25, citing safety concerns. And certain European countries, including France, have begun to ban its use for treating the disease.
The Lancet medical journal published a 96,000-patient observational study on May 22 that failed to confirm any benefit of using the drug. It found hydroxychloroquine drug regimens were associated with decreased in-hospital survival and increased ventricular arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats).
However, the gold standard in testing new medical treatments is randomized, controlled trials. The results of such trials are not yet in.
And while DeNicola is aware of the study, he thinks it has some flaws, and he trusts the results he’s seen firsthand with the drug, both in treating COVID-19 and in treating other conditions before the pandemic.
Treating Patients With Hydroxychloroquine
DeNicola said the controversy surrounding the drug “makes no sense.” The drug has been used since the 20th century to treat connective tissue diseases, he said, and prescribing it has been “second nature” to him.
“I just can’t explain all the negativity to it … all I can do is report what I saw,” he said, citing a 100 percent recovery rate.
The Food and Drug Administration approved hydroxychloroquine for emergency use on March 28. DeNicola immediately began treating his patients with it, coupled with zinc and the antibiotic azithromycin (also known as Z-pak).
He said he uses “the patient’s age, health status, degree of illness, and whether or not the infection is improving or not” to determine whether to prescribe the drug.
DeNicola said he has prescribed the drug to 18 “severely ill” patients. Within three days, they all felt much better.
In some cases, the patients’ lungs fill up with “copious” amounts of liquid or mucus, DeNicola said, making them feel as if they’re drowning. But after taking hydroxychloroquine, they began to feel their lungs clear up and their energy restored—in two or three days.
DeNicola started curbside testing of patients in Laguna Beach on March 10. Since then, his company, Caduceus Medical Group, has tested over 2,000 people for the disease.
Of the 95 confirmed patients DeNicola has treated so far, 40 percent are under 40 years old, he said. Ten percent are over 65, and the remainder are between 40–65. Men and women are affected equally. A few have underlying health conditions.
“They’re 40 to 50 years old, they’re not geriatric,” DeNicola said. “All the patients are actually quite healthy.”
DeNicola said that 90 percent of his patients cite fatigue as the biggest symptom. “Only 80 percent have fever at all, and almost half have parageusia (loss of taste and smell),” his blog states.
One of his patients—a 60-year-old man with diabetes—suffered for 28 days before recovering. Others recovered after roughly two weeks.
DeNicola has been prescribing hydroxychloroquine for years, to combat lupus, malaria, and other connective tissue diseases. He began administering the drug early in the pandemic when he noticed its effectiveness against a severe case of COVID-19.
“One severe case in March was given Plaquenil [hydroxychloroquine] almost as a last resort,” according to his blog. “There was immediate improvement so we used it again. And again. Every case improved.”
The blog added that there have been “no cardiac issues.”
‘Poorly Structured’ Study
DeNicola commented on the Lancet study, saying it was “very poorly structured.”
“They were all retrospective and none of them are prospective,” he said of the cases. “And they really didn’t document definite cardiac problems, it was more of a fear of a cardiac problem.”
DeNicola is aware that his successful use of the drug “does not match scenarios from other centers, even the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” according to his blog.
“I’ve had no problems with it. I’ve never had a patient go off because of side effects,” he said.
“I’ve probably written 500 to 800 prescriptions [for hydroxychloroquine] in my career. So it’s not like a new drug, and it’s a very safe drug normally.”
“As they say in sports—‘we gotta call ‘em as we see ‘em,’” the blog adds.
Testing for Herd Immunity
In early May, DeNicola’s practice began administering 50–100 antibody tests every day, to check for herd immunity. So far, they’ve done about 2,000 total tests, looking for immunoglobulins which protect people against infection.
According to his findings, “we only have in our experience about 3 percent of the population immune from COVID right now,” he said.
“Which means, we either have to have a huge second wave that will affect … millions of more people to get the number up, or we need a vaccine—one or the other.”
DeNicola said he is seeing a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases as Orange County businesses reopen.
“I can’t keep track, because we get a few new ones every day,” he said.
“Everybody had masks” during the lockdown, he added, and nobody went to restaurants or the beach. “And then we saw a kind of a loosening of that, the last two, three weeks.”
As of May 28, the county had logged a total of 5,744 confirmed cases and 142 deaths. Fourteen deaths were reported on May 21 alone—the most in a single day since the outbreak began.