On March 23, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order barring pharmacists from filling prescriptions for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, its next-generation derivative, for home treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the cornavirus SARS-CoV-2. But doctors are using the drugs, which are effective for treating such diseases as malaria and lupus, in huge numbers.
As many as 4,000 people in New York are currently being treated with hydroxychloroquine, the New York Post reports:
A state Health Department official said the [Department of Health] has shipped doses of hydroxychloroquine to 56 hospitals across New York, distributing enough “to treat 4,000 patients to date.” Patients have received doses as part of four- or 10-day regimens, officials said. The University of Albany’s School of Public Health is observing the drug’s impact on the patients, and its preliminary study could come back in weeks instead of the usual months, officials said.
Cuomo has been criticized for prohibiting pharmacists from dispensing hydroxychloroquine outside a hospital.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Sunday told a story about an elderly man with a high fever arriving 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?” Giuliani said on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “Everything shows that it works.”
“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,” President Trump’s personal lawyer said.
Fox News host Sean Hannity also questioned why New York doctors can’t prescribe the drugs outside of a hospital setting.
“I live on Long Island and many doctors are telling me that they want to prescribe this medication to their patients who test positive for COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – but do NOT need the patient to come to a hospital,” Hannity said in a Saturday op-ed. “However, Cuomo’s executive order forbids pharmacies from filling the prescriptions.”
Cuomo, Hannity said, “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.”
Trump, who has twice tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, told reporters gathered in the White House briefing room on Saturday that he may himself take hydroxychloroquine, which he has called a “game changer” for treating the virus.
“If it were me, in fact, I might do it anyway,” Trump said about the drug, normally used to treat malaria and lupus. “I may take it. OK? I may take it. And I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it.”
Last Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the drug emergency-use authorization for the treatment of COVID-19.
Trump again on Sunday touted the drug. “We have stockpiled 29 million pills of the Hydroxychloroquine … And they’re not expensive,” Trump said. “What do you have to lose?”
“We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to collect the data. But I’ll just speak for myself: It’s been out for a long time. It’s a malaria drug. It’s also a drug for lupus. And there’s a — there’s a study out that people with lupus aren’t catching this horrible virus. They’re not — they’re not affected so much by it. Now, maybe that’s correct; maybe it’s false,” Trump said. “You’re going to have to check it out.”
Health experts have warned that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can have some serious side effects, and “may be deadly when combined with a common diabetes drug,” as reported by Forbes Sunday.