Dr. Richard Bartlett, a veteran primary care and emergency room doctor in Odessa, has been using an inhaled corticosteroid called budesonide through a nebulizer to help his patients with COVID-19.
The medicine is often used for asthmatics to reduce the inflammation in their lungs. It was patented in 1973, and is inexpensive and readily available, Bartlett explained to The Texan.
Bartlett said the treatment option occurred to him back in March when he first started seeing patients with coronavirus. He said that doctors were being told that there was no treatment and testing in West Texas was not easily accessible.
Knowing that the virus creates inflammation, starting in the lungs and which can eventually affect various organs, Bartlett tried budesonide to target the source of the inflammation.
“I was shocked at how well it worked,” Bartlett confessed, but then he started researching and found that there were studies that showed it would be of use against the SARS family of viruses.
Bartlett, who has over 28 years of medical practice experience, is encouraged by the many calls he has been receiving from around the state, country, and world asking about the treatment option.
“The good news is that thousands of doctors are coming upon it and its use is growing,” he added.
Recently, he received news from a colleague in South Texas that doctors had tried the treatment and were able to move all of the patients with COVID-19 out of the intensive care unit.
A spokesperson for Frio Regional Hospital in Pearsall confirmed the report.
While pointing out that budesonide does not cure COVID-19, she told The Texan that doctors affiliated with the hospital used it “successfully as a treatment for patients with restricted breathing associated with the virus.”
It will remain a part of the treatment regimen at Frio Regional Hospital when appropriate for “relieving respiratory effects of COVID-19 and hopefully [will] shorten the length of time that patients may spend in the intensive care unit.”
Bartlett said that many doctors are waiting until patients have severe symptoms to try to treat them.
“This strategy of late treatment is failing terribly. We need early detection and treatment,” Bartlett added, pointing out that the health care system in the United States emphasizes early detection and treatment for many other diseases.
He often prescribes an antibiotic and zinc along with the steroid treatment to help fight secondary infections.
Jim Lloyd, a 62-year-old attorney in Orange County, California, came down with the coronavirus. He had reached a point after just a few days that he felt like he was drowning and was coughing non-stop. He had seen a video of Dr. Bartlett explaining his treatment with budesonide.
The doctors at the urgent care where Lloyd sought treatment at first refused to prescribe budesonide. One doctor prescribed albuterol through a nebulizer and Lloyd said it helped a little, but he kept asking for the budesonide.
Within eight hours of using the budesonide, Lloyd felt like he could breathe for the first time in days. He has only continued to improve since then.
“I’m no doctor,” Lloyd told The Texan, “all I know is that this stuff worked for me almost immediately.”
Lloyd also took antibiotics and zinc with the budesonide, as Bartlett recommends.
Bartlett served under Governor Rick Perry on the Texas Health Disparities Task Force for seven years, received a Meritorious Service Award from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, and was elected by his peers to serve as the Ector County Medical Society President for four consecutive terms.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.