Officials with Medical Center Hospital (MCH) and Odessa Regency Medical Center (ORMC) in Odessa held a press conference on Monday addressing continued overcapacity crisis, and numerous obstacles the recent spike in COVID-19 cases is causing. 

Among the many items addressed during the online press conference that dominated the discussion was the hospital’s position on treatment protocols, namely Budesonide and Ivermectin, that have been touted by numerous physician groups and aggressively shared on social media – with the hospitals saying they will not be using treatments that are not globally accepted. 

“There are a lot of treatment protocols that float around out there,” said Dr. Rohith Saravanan, of ORMC. “There are several that groups of people that have put out, groups of physicians have put out. But you have to understand in our region we have stayed consistent with CDC, FDA, and NIH guidelines.” 

Saravanan went on further, calling out Budesonide and Ivermectin specifically, and stated that if you see treatment protocols that include these, you “will not receive them at our hospital (ORMC),” but said patients are welcome to bring it up for discussion with their staff so they can educate you on what it is. 

Both hospitals indicated that discussions with patients and their families relating to using Budesonide and Ivermectin have got heated and have had to call security on occasions. 

MCH CEO Russell Tippin commented on the usage of Ivermectin, pointing to the instances in which people have obtained and used the substance from farm supply stores due to its common usage in treating horses for heartworms, and said he heard it put best on a radio show by someone saying that “unless you moo or eat hay it’s probably not for you.” 

Budesonide, which is an inhaled steroid used for decades to treat asthma, has gained national attention having been touted by Odessa physician Dr. Richard Bartlett as part of his treatment regimen for COVID Patients. 

Numerous private physicians in the Permian Basin are rumored to also be prescribing Bartlett’s protocol, as well as a number of doctors across the country and the world.  

A recent study published by medical researchers from Oxford University’s PRINCIPLE trial program in England found that with 50-year-old and above patients with comorbidities, “early administration of inhaled Budesonide reduces the likelihood of needing urgent medical care and reduces time to recovery following early COVID-19 infection.” 

The study concludes its findings writing that it, “ provides evidence that inhaled Budesonide is an effective and safe treatment for people with COVID-19 in the community who are at increased risk of adverse outcomes.”

The PRINCIPLE group is also currently conducting a study on Ivermectin. 

While Budesonide is now categorized as a medication doctors can use “case by case” in treating COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, health authorities in the United States are not embracing it the same way yet. 

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) COVID-19 treatment guidelines, there is insufficient evidence for the NIH Panel to recommend either for or against the use of inhaled budesonide for the treatment of COVID-19 – and the NIH guidelines holds a similar position for Ivermectin, saying more study of the medication is needed. 

Dr. Saravanan also addressed the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer brand vaccine in treating COVID-19 patients, stating that while the emergency use authorization is still in place for 12- to 15-year-old patients, the full authorization applies to patients 16 and up. 

Saravanan said that with the FDA approval we should start seeing more mandatory vaccine requirements, such as private employers requiring vaccines as a condition of employment and pointed to how the federal government is already mandating vaccines as a condition for federal employment.  

Both MCH and ORMC reported they are over capacity with the recent spike in COVID cases, and urged local officials to cancel events that may include large gatherings.  

Matt Stringer is a journalist from Odessa, Texas.