Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has lifted restrictions set in March on how the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is dispensed. Walz said a run on the drug is no longer feared because it has no proven benefit in treating COVID-19.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted the drug as a coronavirus treatment, calling it a possible “game-changer” and at one point saying he was taking it regularly to help prevent infection.
That led to some practitioners, nationwide and in Minnesota, prescribing large amounts of the drug to patients and themselves, risking shortages for people who relied on the drug for other chronic conditions including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Walz wanted to ensure that people with disabling conditions had access to the drug.
Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, said the governor’s executive order never restricted the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients if a doctor wanted to do so. The state allowed for “approved and appropriate” uses of the drug, which included studying it as a coronavirus treatment.
Early in the pandemic, some doctors and patients reported benefits from using hydroxychloroquine, prompting the Food and Drug Administration in March to allow it to be used in hospitals outside clinical trials. But the FDA revoked that emergency use authorization June 15 saying large randomized trials found it had no benefit treating coronavirus patients.
The FDA has gone further in recent weeks, rejecting requests to further study the drug and warning it can cause heart problems in some patients. Some health care providers maintain the drug has been useful in preventing and treating coronavirus infections.
While hydroxychloroquine hasn’t turned out to be the game-changer Trump and others had hoped it might be, there are a growing number of treatments to help patients recover from coronavirus infections. Doctors have had success using antiviral drugs like remdesivir, steroids and putting patients on oxygen earlier in their care.
(Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press)