BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Although hydroxychloroquine has not rigorously been tested to treat COVID-19, since the FDA approved its use as an emergency treatment option, one Brevard County physician has been prescribing it to patients.

Dr. Jasen Kobobel of the Brevard Family Walk-In Clinic says he's diagnosed about 10 patients with COVID-19 so far this year.

He says a few patients came for a visit for flu-like symptoms just as coronavirus infections were spreading to the county.

With a hunch that the patients didn't have the flu, he got them tested and started early treatment.

Most of his patients were unable to figure out where they got the fast-moving virus, but one case was confirmed to be travel-related.

“Fourteen days after he came back from California, he started having symptoms, so we knew where his came from. Most people didn't know where they obtained the coronavirus,” Kobobel said.

The family medicine doctor said he prescribed hydroxychloroquine along with azithromycin, a common antibiotic, and within two days, some of his patients who were in their 60s and one patient who was in their 40s started feeling better.

“What the hydroxychloroquine does is it modulates your immune system so it doesn't overact. (The) body then finally catches up to the virus and knocks it out. The Z-Pak (azithromycin) is to prevent secondary infection,” he said.

Although prominent medical groups and the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, say hydroxychloroquine has not adequately been tested for potentially deadly side effects, President Donald Trump has been pushing the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 patients.

Because the labeling of hydroxychloroquine does not include information regarding its effectiveness for COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization in March to allow health care providers to prescribe it in pills. This type of pill is normally used for patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and even to prevent malaria.

The doctor says the most common side effect is developing a small rash, and people with heart issues are not good candidates to take the antimalarial drug.

Kobobel says using hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin simultaneously and detecting the virus early is a lifesaver and can prevent some patients from ending up in emergency care and needing ventilators.

Brevard hospital prescribing drug combination

Parrish Medical Center in Titusville on Friday said doctors there are currently treating three COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine.

Two of the three patients are on ventilators, said a statement from the Brevard County hospital.

"We’ve been employing a combination of antiviral drugs hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin since the first patient admitted with COVID-19,” said Dr. Frank Dienst, the hospital's critical care medical director, who added that doctors only prescribe the treatment for patients who don't have underlying health issues that would lead to dangerous side effects.

Parrish patients and their families must attest that they understand that the treatment is "off-label" for severe COVID-19 patients and that there could be side effects.

"It’s not a good option for all patients," Dienst said. "Honest discussions with patients and families are an important part of clinical decision-making, and in the right cases this treatment holds out the possibility of saving lives."