Ohio urges limits on prescribing anti-malaria drug that may treat COVID-19

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — An unnerving aspect to the coronavirus is there isn’t a vaccine, and it may take over a year to create one. As a result, doctors have been trying to find other options.  

There’s a drug that in recent days you may have heard about a lot: hydroxychloroquine – a medicine used to treat several forms of malaria.  

“I think it’s exciting,” President Donald Trump said at his press briefing on March 20. “I think it’s going to be a game-changer and maybe not.” 

Trump has talked about the anti-malarial as a possible coronavirus treatment many times.  

Trials are underway, but there are still a lot of unknowns.  

“The scientists are not sure,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton when asked about the drug’s effectiveness with regards to treating COVID-19. “It was seen as promising and really it was supposed to be used in these life or death circumstances when we really are out of things to try.” 

“We’re going to know very soon and I can tell you the FDA is working very hard to get it out,” Trump said in that same March 20 briefing.

In recent days, the number of prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine has rapidly increased, and that’s a problem. The drug is also used to treat Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Suddenly, those patients are struggling to get their medicine.  

“They will have deterioration if they cannot use this drug,” Acton explained. “There is a shortage and we really need to use this judiciously.” 

Sunday morning, March 22, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy had an emergency conference call to try to slow down prescribing the anti-malarial drug to prevent stockpiling. The board unanimously passed modified rules with regards to prescribing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus.  

Now, to get a prescription of the drug for COVID-19, a patient would need a confirmed positive test documented on the prescription and would be limited to no more than a 14-day supply.   

“It is not preventive, it’s not going to keep you from getting this,” Acton said. “It’s really important that we are thoughtful about our drug supply. Fellow physicians, primary care folks out there: let’s be really wise about this.” 

For those who take the drug for its intended uses, you will still be able to get your medication with your prescription.  

An Arizona man has died and his wife is in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks.

Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, says the last thing health officials want is for emergency rooms to be swamped by patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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