Local hospital develops ‘ground-breaking’ COVID-19 treatment

AdventHealth Ocala has developed a treatment for sick coronavirus patients that so far is showing a 96 percent success rate. The research was led by AdventHealth Ocala Director of Pharmacy Carlette Norwood-Williams, left, and ER Medical Director Dr. Ken Barrick. (Photo courtesy of AdventHealth Ocala)

It’s not a cure. It’s not a vaccine. But what the medical professionals at AdventHealth Ocala say they have developed is a “groundbreaking” drug cocktail that is saving the lives of COVID-19 victims at a remarkable rate.

What the AdventHealth Ocala team has developed over the past several months is a drug cocktail that they say has proven to be 96 percent effective in keeping coronavirus patients out of the intensive care unit and off ventilators.

Led by Director of Pharmacy Dr. Carlette Norwood-Williams, the research started in April when the drug remdesivir, an anti-viral drug used to treat the virus, became scarce. Norwood-Williams began experimenting to find an alternative. Norwood-Williams took various medications and tested them on coronavirus patients. What she came up with was what she and her team are calling ICAM, a mixture of commonly prescribed drugs that has proven immensely successful with the 113 patients who have been treated with the cocktail at AdventHealth Ocala.

Of the 113 people so far treated with ICAM, 96.4 percent have recovered without requiring intensive care or a ventilator. That, AdventHealth Ocala Emergency Room Director Ken Barrick said, is significantly better than other protocols that have been available so far. And, he added, those who were treated at AdventHealth Ocala were all hospitalized.

“The patients who were treated were hospitalized,” she said. “They were the sick people. They required hospitalization.”

Norwood-Williams said she kept trying different combinations of drugs to determine which ones were most effective by measuring “inflammatory markers.” She and Barrick explained that when a virus attacks the body, it causes inflammation, and the AdventHealth team simply watched to see which drugs reduced the inflammation markers.

“What I did was create a tool that looks at the inflammation markers as a group,” Norwood-Williams said. “Three or four weeks in I found a combination that showed consistent improvement.”

The drugs that make up the cocktail are nothing special, Norwood-Williams said. They are all drugs that are commonly available, and she is more than happy to share the recipe:

I = Immune support: vitamin C and zinc

C = Corticosteroid: Methylprednisolone

A = Anticoagulant: Enpxaparin

M = Macrolide: Azithromycin

So, in short, the cocktail provides immune system support, a steroid to reduce inflammation, a blood coagulant because blood clots are common in COVIC-19 patients and an antibiotic.

So far, Advent Health Ocala has treated more than 300 virus patients overall. Of those, 113 have been treated with ICAM, with the 96 percent success rate that is attracting attention to the local hospital.

“That is a significantly impressive number when you look at other experimental protocols currently in trial,” Barrick said.

Norwood-Williams said the next steps include trying ICAM on outpatients, those who test positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization and publishing a research paper “in a prominent medical journal.” It already has been received by a study investigative review board to ensure patient safety and privacy, and “ICAM demonstrated a huge advantage,” Barrick said.

The plan for the outpatient study is to treat 100 people who are positive with ICAM and follow their progress with blood tests and, ultimately, another COVID-19 test.

“I believe the outpatient study will show even more benefit,” Barrick said.

Barrick said, like the drugs being used, the theory behind the ICAM treatment is common too – just give the patient the right combination of drugs that will help the body to better fight the virus.

“It enables your own immune system to do what it is designed to do,” he said. “We have to support the immune system.”

“This is successful,” he added. “We know it. We don’t doubt it. We’re moving on to outpatient now.”

Norwood-Williams’ pride in her ICAM work is evident.

“ICAM does nothing truly to defeat coronavirus, but it does everything to present a strategy of super defense of the body from coronavirus,” she said. “So that’s a primary difference (from other protocols).

“These are medications that have been on the market for a very long time, some as old as 1955. Generic medications, but they work together to defend the body against the coronavirus infection.”

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