Now that more anecdotal evidence has amassed that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine has been successfully used in many cases to counter the novel coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has determinedly opposed pharmacists dispensing it outside a hospital or inpatient setting, is being pressured to change his mind.
On March 23, Cuomo issued an executive order preventing pharmacists from filling prescriptions for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, its next-generation derivative, unless they were utilized for specifically treating malaria or lupus or for a clinical trial for COVID-19. The order stated:
No pharmacist shall dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine except when written as prescribed for an FDA-approved indication; or as part of a state approved clinical trial related to COVID-19 for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, with such test result documented as part of the prescription. No other experimental or prophylactic use shall be permitted, and any permitted prescription is limited to one fourteen day prescription with no refills.
On March 27, Cuomo amended that order, stating:
The directive contained in Executive Order 202.10 related to restrictions on dispensing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for prophylactic purposes is amended as follows: No pharmacist shall dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine except when written: as prescribed for an FDA-approved indication; for an indication supported by one or more citations included or approved for inclusion in the compendia specified in 42 U.S.C. 1396r–8(g)(1)(B)(i); for patients in inpatient settings and acute settings; for residents in a subacute part of a skilled nursing facility; or as part of an study approved by an Institutional Review Board. Any person authorized to prescribe such medications shall denote on the prescription the condition for which the prescription has been issued.
Now critics are demanding that Cuomo permit pharmacists to dispense the drug outside a hospital or inpatient setting. As The Washington Times reports, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, appearing on “Sunday Morning Futures,” recalled witnessing an elderly man with a high fever arrive at Mount Sinai Hospital, “and the first thing they did before they even talked to him was give him hydroxychloroquine … Why is the governor banning it? … Everything shows that it works.” Giuliani added, “There’s a dispute as to whether it treats symptoms or cures the disease. But it works. And we don’t have the luxury right now for a perfect solution.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity issued an op-ed on Saturday stating, “Enough is enough. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to IMMEDIATELY lift his pharmacy ban that is forcing New Yorkers stricken by the coronavirus into an already overburdened hospital system to get the potentially life-saving drug hydroxychloroquine. Because of an executive order issued by the Democratic governor, any new prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine must go through the already overrun hospital system. This makes no sense … The governor is creating a much bigger crisis in his state’s hospital system by denying New Yorkers THE CHOICE (in consultation with their doctors) to take this potentially life-saving medication.”
The New York Post reported on Sunday: “As many as 4,000 seriously ill coronavirus patients in New York are being treated with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, state health officials say.”