The Food and Drug Administration is in emergency mode when it comes to COVID-19. Treatment approvals that usually take years are happening in a matter of days to help coronavirus patients.

NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne spoke to 2 kidney specialists who are using one of those emergency therapies now.

Roughly 700 recently approved dialysis filers were sent to hospitals across the United States. The Medical College of Georgia at AU Health got 80 of the filters. AU Health is the first hospital in Georgia to use the new therapy for COVID patients.

“What we are seeing in the COVID-19 patients is completely different,” says nephrologist Dr. Sandeep Padala.

Dr. Padala says the body produces cytokines to attack infection; however, some COVID patients produce to many and the cytokines start attacking vital organs like the lungs, heart, gut and kidneys.

“Too much is too bad right? So that’s what’s happening so it’s a cytokine storm,” Dr. Padala says. “This is when we thought, what else can we do differently apart from the regular treatment?”

Nephrologist Dr. Azeem Mohammed says they asked their dialysis provider for a device to filter out bad cytokines.

“You’re basically drawing blood from [the patient], you’re running it through the filter, most of the filter leaks out all of the cytokines, all of the toxins that the body doesn’t want and then purified blood goes back into [the patient],” Dr. Mohammed explains.

The cytokine filter just got emergency FDA approval less than 2 weeks ago. The process typically takes take years, but for new COVID treatments, approval can happen in a matter of days. These emergency approvals only apply to coronavirus patients on a trial basis.

“It’s called an Emergency Use Authorization,” says Dr. Mohammed. “It’s like, let’s try anything, whatever works.”

Dr. Mohammed and Dr. Padala started using the cytokine filters last Monday. They say they have seen promise in the first week. Implementing the filters and tracking the patients’ progress on them is how these kidney specialists are helping save lives.

They are collecting data, changing it, tracking what works and testing the treatments on real patients in real time.

“To be honest, it’s very scary because no one knows what is really working,” says Dr. Padala. “It’s just trying all our best to see if we can make a positive impact on the outcome of the patients.”

“We know that it theoretically should work,” adds Dr. Mohammed. “Now, putting it into practical play is daunting, but if the patients are on with us and we want to tell them that hey, we have an option of giving you a better chance of survival and if I was a patient, I’d take it.”

Doctors from hospitals across Georgia have called, to ask about this unique type of treatment to see how they could do something similar.

Photojournalist Gary Hipps