Medina County doctor using sleep aid to help treat COVID-19 patients

Doctor also using other supplements, prescription medication

Medina County doctor using sleep aid to help treat COVID-19 patients

MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – A Medina County doctor says he’s successfully helping COVID-19 patients recover with more ease with the use of supplements and medications, including melatonin.

Dr. Richard Neel, with Little Alsace Urgent Care Center, said since the beginning of the pandemic in the spring, he has treated a couple of hundred patients with melatonin and vitamins C and D3, along with antibiotics and steroids, depending on the need of the patient.

“Melatonin is an amazing molecule that has antitoxins, antioxidants and modulates the immune system in ways much like the hydroxychloroquine, but it’s much easier to titrate the melatonin. And I think it’s actually a much better molecule,” Neel said.

Melatonin is America’s most used sleep aid, but it should be taken with caution

Melatonin is known to help with sleep and inflammation.

“(Melatonin is) way better at stopping the overreaction of the immune system that leads to the cytokine storm, and that’s basically how it works,” Neel said.

He said every one of his patients has recovered, but there were two that needed to be hospitalized. However, their condition was not serious, he said.

Neel is a retired colonel U.S. Air Force chief flight surgeon with a master's degree in public health from Harvard University and is also an aerospace medical expert. He started studying the effects of melatonin 20 years ago as a counter-use on bioweapons.

“I’ve been in contact with many of the leading researchers on melatonin, and melatonin was actually recommended for use with the original SARS and MRSA and other viruses,” Neel said.

Many people have heard about Neel’s therapy, and he’s been working seven days a week, he said. Before COVID-19 arrived in the U.S., Neel tried to get Italian doctors to give melatonin a try, but he said his colleague told him that no one wanted to listen to an American doctor then. Since then, word has spread about the use of melatonin, and he’s been getting a lot of calls.

“I’m fielding phone calls actually from all around the U.S. but also from a few other countries, as well. So the word definitely is out there,” Neel said.

There are not many studies done on the use of melatonin and the novel coronavirus, so there is skepticism.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, with UT Health San Antonio, says melatonin is a natural hormone and can be used in small doses. She said there are a few promising studies out of Spain and Iran that might yield some results.

“They’re giving those health care workers either two milligrams of melatonin at bedtime or a placebo or a sugar pill, and they’re monitoring them for 12 weeks. And they’re going to look to see if there’s any difference in the rate of getting infected or if people do get infected,” Berggren said.

Berggren warns people not to rush out and start taking supplements without consulting their doctors, as melatonin could have a negative side effect on some people.

“There’s some evidence that if you take blood thinners or anticoagulants, or if you take medication for seizures, that the melatonin could interact with those,” she said. “So there could be drug-drug interactions.”

Neel said since supplements are not regulated, a true study is needed to determine dosage based on stages of the virus.

Neel uses melatonin for those who are positive for the virus, but it does not kill the virus. However, the supplement helps ease the symptoms, Neel said.

“I’m actually getting more and more colleagues who actually have tried it. And I’m getting lots of feedback that says, ‘Wow, this stuff really does work,’” he said. “You’re going to kind of throw the kitchen sink at this thing if you can.”

Neel urges patients to talk to their physicians about the supplement. He also welcomes calls from those in the medical field.

“Anyone who would like to know more, discuss it, I’m more than open to talking to anyone about it. I really have seen that this has worked as well as I thought it would,” he said.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.