West Virginia’s medical and pharmaceutical boards are warning against hoarding and improperly distributing two medications that the Centers for Disease Control has indicated could help fight COVID-19, otherwise known as the novel coronavirus.
The West Virginia Board of Pharmacy along with the state Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine published an emergency rule Saturday limiting prescriptions for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which most commonly are used to prevent malaria, according to the CDC. Hydroxychloroquine also is prescribed as a treatment for lupus and other inflammatory health conditions, according to the CDC.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sent out a news release Monday supporting the rule. On Friday, Morrisey had issued a consumer alert discouraging people from hoarding the drug or filling prescriptions that aren’t medically necessary.
“Every individual should refrain from hoarding any drug product or equipment that could help our state defeat the coronavirus pandemic,” Morrisey said Monday in his release. “I applaud the Board of Pharmacy for implementing its emergency rule. Any medication that has the potential to treat coronavirus must be in enough supply for those who need it most.”
The CDC has reported that Chinese health care practitioners have seen some success in treating COVID-19 with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, and the medications are part of the recommended treatment for the virus in several countries.
President Donald Trump touted the drugs on Friday, saying he “felt good” about them, which Morrisey said led to concerns that there could be a shortage of the medication.
The drugs showed encouraging signs in small, early tests against the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported. But they have serious side effects, one reason why, even in this pandemic event, scientists are hesitant to give them without evidence of their value. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can cause severely low blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, and muscle or nerve damage.
Scientists warn about raising false hopes among the public and have said major studies are needed to prove the drugs are safe and effective against the illness, and to show that infected people would not have recovered just as well on their own, the AP writes.
There have been reports of some prescribers writing prescriptions for those medications for family and friends who haven’t been diagnosed with any medical conditions that required treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, Morrisey said.
The pharmacy board’s emergency rule limits chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine prescriptions to no more than 30 tablets with no refills permitted, meaning it will be up to pharmacists to enforce the rule.
The rule, which took effect Saturday, includes an exemption for any patient previously established on the medication prior to the effective date of the rule.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline also is open to anyone to report scams, price gouging or other actions that may take advantage of consumers during the pandemic.
The hotline number is 1-800-368-8808. Complaints also can be filed on the attorney general’s website.