Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has requested an emergency supply of the drugs President Trump touted as having success treating patients with severe symptoms of the novel coronavirus, in a reversal from the state’s directive to medical professionals last week to avoid the medication for this purpose.
Michigan, this week, requested hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine from the Strategic National Stockpile for physicians to use to help treat patients with COVID-19, after the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend granted an emergency use authorization for the anti-malarial drugs.
But last week, Whitmer’s administration threatened physicians prescribing the drugs, saying they were subject to “administrative action” should they continue to use the medication.
“The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has received multiple allegations of Michigan physicians inappropriately prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to themselves, family, friends, and/or coworkers without a legitimate medical purpose,” Deb Gagliardi, the director of the Bureau of Professional Licensing, and Forrest Pasanski, the director of the Enforcement Division, wrote in a letter to “licensed prescribers and dispensers.”
“Prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine without further proof of efficacy for treating COVID-19 or with the intent to stockpile the drug may create a shortage” for those patients who need the drug for its approved use, adding that “reports of this conduct will be evaluated and may be further investigated for administrative action.
“Again, these drugs have not been proven scientifically or medically to treat COVID-19.”
“Michigan pharmacists may see an increased volume of prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and should take special care to evaluate the prescriptions’ legitimacy,” they continued, warning again that “licensed health professionals are required to report inappropriate prescribing practices.”
Michigan wasn’t the only state last week to threaten physicians using the drugs—Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s administration also restricted the prescription of the medication, after a man died and his wife was hospitalized for using a fish tank cleaning additive with a similar name as a substitute.
“While the two drugs have necessary medical purposes, there is no conclusive evidence at this time among COVID-19 experts or Nevada’s own medical health advisory team that the drugs provide treatment for COVID-19 patients,” Sisolak said in a statement last week.
But Michigan reversed course, requesting a supply of the medications for physicians to use in treating patients of COIVD-19, after the Department of Health and Human Services received and accepted donations of the medications to the national stockpile to be used for coronavirus treatment.
“President Trump is taking every possible step to protect Americans from the coronavirus and provide them with hope,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Scientists in America and around the world have identified multiple potential therapeutics for COVID-19, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.”
He added: “The President’s bold leadership and the hard work of FDA and HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response have succeeded in securing this large donation of medicine. We’ll continue working around the clock to get American patients access to therapeutics that may help them battle COVID-19, while building the evidence to evaluate which options are effective.”
The FDA’s emergency use authorization allows hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the national stockpile “to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.”
Hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate are oral prescription drugs approved to treat malaria and other diseases. HHS says there currently are no approved treatments for COVID-19, but that both drugs have “shown activity in laboratory studies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).”
“Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” HHS said in a statement. “Clinical trials are needed to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective.”
Meanwhile, Whitmer, who has been a fierce critic of the president, said last week that states are being forced to bid with one another for personal protective equipment (PPE) and, in some cases, contracts in place have been set aside, delayed or canceled and the goods are instead going to the federal government.
“We the states are trying to actively get every piece of PPE that we can. We’re bidding against one another and, in some cases, the federal government is taking priority,” she said.
Whitmer added: “We’ve got to keep working to get all of these other pieces of equipment and when we’re bidding against one another, it’s creating a lot of frustration and concern.”
As of Thursday morning, the U.S. reported more than 216,700 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,130 deaths.