Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, sent President Trump a letter Friday from more than 700 physicians urging him to expand the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus outpatients by removing federal and state restrictions limiting the drug’s use to hospitals.
He said he forwarded the request to the White House after gaining support from 776 physicians, just 14 hours after he began circulating the letter, which asks Mr. Trump to issue presidential directives allowing doctors to “fight with all the weapons we have at hand.”
Physicians “must be free to use the medicines at hand free of politicians and bureaucrats’ second-guessing and threats,” said the letter. “It is unprecedented — and lethal — for state governors and medical boards to forbid physicians’ freedom to prescribe long-approved and safely used medications.”
The medical professionals asked Mr. Trump to remove language from the Food & Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization for chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) limiting doses from the Strategic National Stockpile to “certain hospitalized patients.”
In addition, the physicians asked the president to “direct the FDA to include the option of early outpatient use of these medications.”
Finally, the letter asked Mr. Trump to “prohibit governors from arbitrarily restricting hydroxychloroquine to only hospitalized patients,” and ban state medical and pharmacy boards from threatening disciplinary action for off-label prescriptions for “early treatment or prophylaxis for COVID-19 in outpatients or at-risk exposed persons.”
“We can’t wait months for a completed RCT [randomized clinical trial] or a vaccine,” said the letter. “People are dying every day. Staggering numbers of people have lost jobs, incomes, and [the] ability to live life normally, all of which lead to loss of life that could quickly exceed losses from the virus.”
More than 20 states have issued guidances on pharmacists filling hydroxychloroquine prescriptions for COVID-19, citing concerns about hoarding and possible shortages for malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients, as well as a lack of clinical trials for their drugs’ use in treating the novel coronavirus.
Examples of the restrictions include limiting prescriptions to 14-day supplies; limiting the drugs to patients with a confirmed COVID-19 test result, and prohibiting refills. Some states have also warned of sanctions against doctors and pharmacists who violate the guidance.
There is no FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19, which was first confirmed in December in Wuhan, China, but HCQ and CQ are being used increasingly by doctors and hospitals worldwide as anecdotal evidence of the drugs’ effectiveness grows.
Other medical experts have raised concerns about the FDA’s emergency-use authorization for the drugs.
“I understand the desire to find hope, but we need more evidence than is currently available before we encourage widespread use,” former FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg told Science magazine.