As the first wave of infection subsides, the doctors at Ahus can talk about important advances in the treatment of Corona patients who become seriously ill.
– What has happened during the pandemic is that there has been a greater understanding and acceptance for that it is controlled studies that help us forward, says chief physician Jan Erik Berdal.
He is head of the infection department at Akershus University Hospital (Ahus), the major hospital where nearly 260 patients have been admitted with Covid-19 since the coronavirus reached Norway.
This weekend, there were only two Corona patients left at Ahus. Nationally, the number of inpatients was down to nine. The first wave of infection has passed.
Along the way, doctors have tried one drug after another. That way, they have learned a lot about whether Covid-19 can be treated. But they have also learned that unpublished studies and individual studies are not always reliable.
– We have become much more skeptical, says Berdal to NTB.
Out of the dance
Hydroxychloroquine, which is actually a malaria medicine, has received a great deal of international attention and has been embraced by both US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. So at the beginning of March, the doctors at Ahus had a low threshold for using this.
But the professionals’ conclusion is now that this substance has no positive effect on Covid-19.
Out of the dance is also the HIV medicine Ritonavir, says Berdal.
At the same time, the doctors at Ahus have become more restrictive in giving antibiotics to Corona patients than they were at first. This is because the risk of so-called superinfections has proven to be lower than feared.
A well-known drug that doctors believe in, however, is Dexamethasone, a steroid that suppresses the immune system.
At the outset of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against administering Dexamethasone to Corona patients. But in June, a British study showed that this drug could reduce the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators.
After this, Ahus has also used the drug.
– But it must be said that the report on Dexamethasone came right at the tail end of our wave of infection. We have not had time to get that much personal experience with it, says Berdal.
Another drug they are hoping for is Remdesivir. But Remdesivir is not freely available in Norway and is currently only given as part of controlled studies.
Vibecke Sørensen is sectional Chief consultant at the intensive care unit at Ahus. She says that the mortality rate among Corona patients who have received respiratory treatment in Ahus is only 10 percent.
The hospital thus has survival rates that are at the very top internationally. Many have recovered after a long time on a ventilator.
– What we have done has worked, Sørensen states.
She therefore doubts whether drugs such as Dexamethasone can lead to any revolution in treatment.
Another treatment method that has shown promising results is the transfer of blood plasma from people who have recovered from Covid-19, and who have thus developed antibodies.
Here, Ahus will be part of a study that will start shortly, and the blood banks began already in April to collect blood from recovered patients.
Nuts and bolts
Berdal nevertheless points out that everything that has been tested so far is things that the hospitals have had ” in their stock cupboards”.
He compares it to buying a screw that is brand new on the market, and then going down to the basement shed to try to find a suitable nut.
– We tried out what we had. But it was perhaps a little naive to think that it would work.
Berdal himself believes that “designer drugs” are needed, ie a new generation of drugs that have been specially developed to attack the Coronavirus.
– I personally have much greater faith in that, he says.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today