The governor of Michigan has reportedly reversed course on her decision to block the use of the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
Two small studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that the drugs can be effective at treating the disease.
After President Trump touted the drugs as promising potential treatments at a news conference last month, Democrat governors Steve Sisolak of Nevada, and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan issued directives banning the use of the drugs to fight the deadly virus.
The day after the president’s remarks, Sisolak issued an emergency declaration restricting non-hospital doctors from prescribing chloroquine to treat coronavirus in the state, saying in a statement that there’s no consensus among experts that the drugs can help people suffering with the disease.
“At this point in time, there is no known cure for COVID-19 and we must not withhold these drugs from those who need them,” Sisolak said in a press release. “The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home for Nevada, not to stockpile these drugs.”
The governor claimed that the order was “aimed at preventing hoarding of the drugs” that could be used to treat other conditions.
Whitmer directed the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to issue a letter last week warning that stockpiling the drugs “will be evaluated and may be further investigated for administrative action,” citing the lack of proof of their effectiveness.
The letter stated: “Prescribing… the drug may create a shortage for patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or other ailments for which chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are proven treatments.”
“Pursuant to Michigan Administrative Code, R 338.490(2), a pharmacist shall not fill a prescription if the pharmacist believes the prescription will be used for other than legitimate medical purposes or if the prescription could cause harm to a patient. It is also important to be mindful that licensed health professionals are required to report inappropriate prescribing practices,” the letter reads.
The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday approved the emergency use of the drugs to treat patients suffering with coronavirus.
Meanwhile, HHS has allowed for the drugs to be “donated to the Strategic 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,” according to a statement announcing that Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine.
The Whitmer administration has since removed the threatening language from the LARA letter and is now reportedly asking the federal government to send shipments of the drugs to Michigan.
Both governors say that they only wanted to prevent people from hoarding the drugs because patients suffering from other diseases and conditions needed them.
“We want to ensure that doctors have the ability to prescribe these medicines. We also want to make sure that the people who have prescriptions that predated COVID-19 have access to the medication they need. And so all of the work that we’ve done is trying to strike that balance,” Whitmer said in a press conference on Monday.
According to Bridge Magazine, Whitmer’s office is now trying to get the Strategic National Stockpile to send more chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to the state.