Wal-Mart pharmacy technician Mark Pool fills a generic anti-inflammatory prescription at a Little Rock, Ark., Wal-Mart Super Center store in a file photo from Oct. 19, 2006. By boosting the power of Democrats in Congress, voters likely set in motion legislative efforts to lower the price of pharmaceuticals and rein in military spending. But with the two parties stalemated in the Senate, where it usually takes 60 votes to pass major legislation, companies such as Merck
Editor’s note: This headline has been updated to better reflect the Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ initial announcement on the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat coronavirus.
The Detroit News’ Kathy Hoekstra reports that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has sent a letter to all physicians and pharmacists in the state warning of “professional consequences” if they prescribe or dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to treat coronavirus patients. Hoekstra writes that “beyond the rational recommendation against hoarding as production of this medication needs to be ramped up, the letter deviates into open threats of “administrative action” against the licenses of doctors that prescribe hydroxychloroquine.” It also orders pharmacists to “ignore physician orders for this medication.”
The letter is couched in terms of wanting to protect the state’s supply of these drugs for those suffering with conditions for which the drug has always been prescribed such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. But there is an unmistakably threatening tone to the letter.
It starts by stating that LARA has received “multiple allegations of Michigan physicians inappropriately prescribing” these drugs “without a legitimate medical purpose.” Those infected with coronavirus and their doctors are not criminals. If testing positive for the coronavirus is not a legitimate medical reason to try these drugs, I don’t know what is. They are dealing with a life threatening disease that, through March 26, has already killed 1,209 Americans. (Note: My colleague, Mike Ford, provides updated statistics every night at 11:30.)
And LARA reminds health care providers they are “required to report inappropriate prescribing practices.”
Finally, the letter emphasizes the fact that these drugs “have not been proven scientifically or medically to treat COVID-19.”
(The March 24th letter can be viewed here.)
Considering the fact that no one had ever heard of the coronavirus until January, it’s a given that their efficacy hasn’t been proven scientifically or medically to treat COVID-19. However, so far, many doctors who have prescribed hydroxychloroquine and patients who have taken it have found it to be effective. Several small studies have reached the same conclusion.
On Tuesday, clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine began in New York. “With his state now the nation’s pandemic epicenter, and with the blessing and help of the president and FDA, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought in 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of Zithromax and 750,000 doses of chloroquine.”
By all means, those who have been taking these medications for long-term conditions should not be denied refills.
But we are currently in the middle of a crisis. The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed written by two physicians who are currently working with coronavirus patients. I posted about this here.
The most important point the doctors make is that we don’t have the luxury of time. There are currently larger studies being conducted, but the results won’t be available for weeks. They explain, “We have a drug with an excellent safety profile but limited clinical outcomes—and no better alternatives until long after this disaster peaks. We can use this treatment to help save lives and prevent others from becoming infected. Or we can wait several weeks and risk discovering we didn’t do everything we could to end this pandemic as quickly as possible.” It will also help contain the spread of the disease.
For Gov. Whitmer to deny Michigan residents access to one of the only treatments that has shown promise in helping patients with coronavirus is unfair. She’s playing with people’s lives. To treat these patients and their physicians as criminals is unconscionable.
One of her constituents, a Michigan man who became gravely ill after contracting COVID-19 and credits his life to the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, would like a word with Gov. Whitmer. Jim Santilli shares the story of his illness and his recovery on Facebook. Below is an excerpt. The full post can be viewed here.
Thank you to everyone for your support and prayers while I was extremely ill and hospitalized due to COVID-19! It truly means the world to me. I am continuing to recover and be treated at home. I’m praying all of you, and your families, remain healthy and safe during this challenging time.
As a COVID-19 survivor who is currently recovering, I believe it is important to share my story publicly so others have hope. The sad reality is Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is failing the people of the state of Michigan. Rather than leading and making good choices that will help our wonderful people during this horrible COVID-19 situation, she continuously chooses to engage in partisan politics. That must end now.
On March 18th, I had a sudden onset of severe respiratory and cardiac issues. I immediately went to the hospital and they did a COVID-19 test. Despite my test being marked as a priority, I did not receive the test results until the evening of March 22nd. While waiting for the test results in the hospital, my breathing continued to worsen as treatment was received. Without having the COVID-19 test results, the wonderful and hard-working doctors basically have their hands tied as certain medications (i.e. steroids, etc.) can potentially make COVID-19 worse. On the morning of March 21st, I was not doing well and it was a major struggle to breathe. Feeling like I was slowly drowning, I honestly believed I would not live to see midnight. The x-ray that morning also showed my condition was worsening, including some collapsing in the lungs. Luckily, the infectious disease physicians decided to try a non-approved, experimental combination (Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin). This is the same treatment President Donald Trump recently mentioned at a press conference and continues to be attacked for. After my first dose, I had a major improvement. My gasping for air stopped, and I was in tears of happiness due to having hope restored. I finally felt I would beat COVID-19 and it was no longer beating me. On March 22nd, I remained about the same. However, March 23rd brought a significant improvement. I continued to recover and was miraculously able to go home on March 24th to continue the treatment.