March 25, 2017

FASTER, PLEASE: A Norfolk doctor found a treatment for sepsis. Now he’s trying to get the ICU world to listen.

Valerie Hobbs, 53, was in the throes of sepsis – an infection coursing through her veins that was causing her blood pressure to tank, her organs to fail and her breathing to flag.

“When you have a person that young who’s going to die, you start thinking, ‘What else can we pull out of the bag?’ ” said Dr. Paul Marik, who was on duty that day in the intensive care unit of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

In this case, he reached for Vitamin C.

Marik, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Eastern Virginia Medical School, had recently read medical journal articles involving the vitamin, and decided to order IV infusions of it, along with hydrocortisone, a steroid, to reduce inflammation.

Then, he went home.

The next morning, Hobbs had improved so much she was removed from four different medications used to boost her blood pressure. Her kidney function was better. Her breathing eased.

Three days later, she left the ICU.

That was in January 2016. Today, Hobbs is back at her home in Norfolk.

“At first we thought it was a coincidence, that maybe the stars aligned just right and she got lucky,” Marik said.

Ten days later, another patient, a paraplegic, arrived in the ICU with sepsis, and Marik prescribed the same thing. That patient improved as well.

A third patient, a man so sick with pneumonia he was on a ventilator, also received the treatment. The results were the same.

Faster, please. But there’s a catch:

He wants there to be a comprehensive study, and he said that Stanford University has expressed some interest. But he said it will be difficult to fund because it uses drugs that have been on the market for decades: “We are curing it for $60. No one will make any money off it.”

Studies take money, and that money often comes from pharmaceutical companies.

Somebody should fund it. A friend on Facebook suggests that health insurance companies should fund it, since it could save them a bundle.

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