Ohio Pharmacy Board Banning Hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 Treatment

Getty A bottle and pills of Hydroxychloroquine sit on a counter at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah.

The Ohio pharmacy board is banning hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment in the state. The move comes shortly after a video by America’s Frontline Doctors was removed from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Some doctors in the video touted hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure, which the FDA has said is not accurate.

Pharmacists Could Temporarily Lose Their Licenses If They Don’t Follow the Regulations

The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has issued new regulations for hydroxychloroquine that are effective on July 30, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The drug can be used in clinical trials, but pharmacies, medical institutions, and clinics will no longer be able to dispense or sell the drug for COVID-19 use. Pharmacists who dispense the drug may face anywhere from a warning to a temporary suspension of their license.

You can read the full announcement by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy here. Screenshots are below.

State of Ohio

State of Ohio

The relevant part of the new regulations read, in part:

(B) Except as provided in paragraph (C) of this rule, prescriptions issued for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for prophylactic use related to COVID-19 or for the treatment of COVID19 are strictly prohibited unless otherwise approved by the board’s executive director in consultation with the board president, at which time a resolution shall issue. Upon the effective date of this rule, all previous approvals for the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine shall be deemed void and must be approved using the process outlined in this paragraph.

(C) The prohibition in paragraph (B) of this rule does not apply to prescriptions issued as part of a documented institutional review board-approved clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drugs to treat COVID-19. Prescriptions must include documentation that the patient is enrolled in a clinical trial.

The regulations note that the new requirements apply to inpatient prescriptions for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, too, and all previous exceptions are voided except for clinical trials. The rule also applies to non-resident pharmacies.

Cameron McNamee, director of policy and communications for the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, told Dispatch: “The long and short of it is, we want people to focus on what works, such as social distancing and mask use. We ultimately want to make sure people are being safe and not exposing themselves to drugs that have shown not to be effective in treating COVID-19.”

McNamee said exactly what actions would be taken against pharmacists still prescribing the drug for coronavirus patients would depend on each individual situation.

Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, told WHIO that the drug wasn’t an effective treatment for OCVID-19.

In April, Ohio Purchased 2 Million Hydroxychloroquine Pills in Case the Treatment Worked

The Board had previously cracked down on doctors who were hoarding the medication in case it was needed, and the drug was only allowed to be prescribed for people who had tested positive for COVID-19, Dispatch reported. Before that, the Ohio Department of Health had stockpiled the drug in case it was needed, purchasing two million pills on April 9 for $602,629.

On May 28, 2020, a systematic review of the therapeutic role of hydroxychloroquine was published in Clinical Drug Investigation. the publication concluded: “The results of efficacy and safety of HCQ in COVID-19, as obtained from the clinical studies, are not satisfactory, although many of these studies had major methodological limitations. Stronger evidence from well-designed robust randomized clinical trials is required before conclusively determining the role of HCQ in the treatment of COVID-19. Clinical prudence is required in advocating HCQ as a therapeutic armamentarium in COVID-19.”

The drug is typically used to treat malaria and may also be used for conditions like lupus or arthritis. The CDC notes that the medication can be prescribed to children and adults of all ages and can be safely taken by women who are nursing or pregnant. However, people who have psoriasis should not take the medication. Medical News Today noted that the drug can cause eye damage in high doses and can cause heart disease. While the latter side effect is uncommon, Medical News Today reported, it can be fatal.

The FDA has cautioned against the use of COVID-19 outside of a hospital setting or clinical trial because of heart rhythm risks. On June 15, it revoked emergency use authorization of the medication in certain hospitalized patients.

Still, some doctors have said they have had personal success with hydroxychloroquine and believe further study is needed. A peer-reviewed publication by the Henry Ford Health System in early July, analyzing patients from March 10 to May 2, concluded that treatment with hydroxychloroquine reduced death rates in COVID-19 patients, MLive reported. It still stated that people should be cautious in their reaction to the results and more trials are needed.

A group called America’s Frontline Doctors hosted a summit in which some doctors, including Dr. Stella Immanuel, claimed that hydroxychloroquine was a “cure.” The videos were removed from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The video can still be viewed on Bitchute here.

The America’s Frontline Doctors’ website is now down too. A “Website Expired” error message from Squarespace appears when visiting the domain. According to ICANN, the domain’s owner and phone number are private. The domain was just registered on July 16, 2020 and isn’t set to expire until July 16, 2021.

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