State health department: Proposed purchase of Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment only in negotiation phase

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This Monday, April 6, 2020, photo shows an arrangement of Hydroxychloroquine pills in Las Vegas. President Donald Trump and his administration are keeping up their out-sized promotion of the anti-malaria drug not yet officially approved for fighting the new coronavirus, but scientists say more testing is needed before it’s proven safe and effective against COVID-19. (AP Photo/John Locher)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and members of the state legislature have a plan in place to purchase hydroxychloroquine treatments from pharmaceutical supplier Meds in Motion.

In a press release issued by UDOH, they stated they started to make preparations for securing a wide variety of supplies that could potentially be useful in responding to the outbreak in early March, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

But recent studies have found the drug may not be as helpful as first thought.

RELATED: White House pushes unproven drug for virus, but doctors wary

The European Medicines Agency recently found that hydroxychloroquine is known to cause heart rhythm problems, especially if combined with other drugs.

Another study, this one in the U.S., showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported.

The UDOH said it is still researching FDA requirements concerning the compounding and distribution of hydroxychloroquine, and are currently only in negotiations, but no contract has been signed yet for the 200,000 treatments.

“The most consistent element of COVID-19 has been that things are constantly changing,” said Gen. Jefferson Burton, acting executive director of the UDOH. “We wanted to put ourselves in a position that if there were to be a shortage in the supply chain of hydroxychloroquine we were well-positioned to be able to provide medication to Utah residents who need it. The good news is, the supply chain has recently shown signs of stabilization.”

Earlier this month a Utah physician posted on Twitter that one of his patients was not able to get the hydroxychloroquine he prescribed because the state was controlling distribution. State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn says that’s simply not true.

“We have made zero moves to try to…control any access to hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine,” Dr. Dunn said. “If a provider chooses to treat his or her own patient with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine they are OK to do so. The State of Utah doesn’t interfere with that relationship at all.”

Treatment suggestions published by the UDOH for COVID19 explain patients must first have tested positive and then also be told there are NO FDA approved medications for this disease but some small, preliminary studies that suggest that hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine may be beneficial to prevent lung complications.

Read the UDOH treatment plan here:

The statement further reads:

“Although the treatment course is short, consider the patient’s other medications
(especially any medication that prolongs the QT interval), and explain common side
effects: GI upset is most common (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain) and can
be relieved by taking the medication with food, dizziness, headache, anxiety, lack of
appetite, and skin/hair discoloration. As usual, patients should report any concerning side
effects.”

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