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The state of Utah wants to slow down panic buying of two drugs that some health officials — and President Donald Trump — have touted as a potential treatment for coronavirus.
The Utah Board of Pharmacy, meeting by teleconference Tuesday, started working on draft regulations to limit the distribution of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, so that they are available to patients who already take the drugs for chronic conditions.
The move from Utah’s board comes after similar action last week from pharmacy boards in Texas, Ohio, Idaho and Nevada.
Board member Christopher Sheard was tasked to draft the rules to discourage panic buying by people seeking a quick-fix treatment for COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus — for which there currently is no cure. The rules also would encourage prescriptions for patients who have been using the drugs for such conditions as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are often used to treat malaria, and Sheard noted that pharmacists like himself have seen “an uptick in prescriptions for malaria.” He added, “With the travel ban, it makes me wonder where those are coming from.”
According to The New York Times, several hosts on Fox News talked up the drugs’ potential, even though there are limited studies of the drugs’ effectiveness. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drugs’ use in treating coronavirus.
Erin R. Fox, senior director of drug information and support services at University of Utah Health, told the pharmacy board members that there have been shortages of those drugs in the last week — ever since Trump’s endorsement. Because of that, people suffering from lupus and arthritis have had difficulty getting their regular prescriptions, though Fox said that could be a short-term problem as manufacturers ramp up production.
Whitney Buckel, who leads an infectious disease research program at Intermountain Healthcare, told the board that prescribing chloroquine drugs before they’ve been tested for coronavirus could have “downstream consequences.”
“If we do this before there’s data that it’s actually effective,” Buckel said, “we could be causing more harm.”