- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under increased pressure to lift his executive order prohibiting pharmacists from dispensing the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine outside a hospital or inpatient setting to treat the novel coronavirus.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that he recently witnessed 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?” asked Mr. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “Everything shows that it works.”

Touted by Mr. Trump, hydroxychloroquine has touched off a heated political and medical debate over whether it should be widely prescribed to fight the pandemic, with opponents arguing that the drug is unproven in treating COVID-19.

Mr. Giuliani said that “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.”

In a March 23 executive order, Mr. Cuomo barred pharmacists from filling prescriptions for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, its next-generation derivative, except for FDA-approved uses, such as for treating malaria or lupus, or as part of clinical trials for COVID-19.

The next day, the Democratic governor announced that the Trump administration and FDA had accelerated deliveries of the drug to New York for experimental therapies aimed at treating the novel coronavirus, adding that “hospitals will start using that drug today.”

He followed up March 27 by amending his order to allow the drug to be prescribed for “patients in inpatient settings and acute settings; for residents in a subacute part of a skilled nursing facility; or as part of [a] study approved by an Institutional Review Board.”




As Mr. Trump continues to champion the drug—he said Saturday that he may begin taking it himself to ward off the virus—Fox News host Sean Hannity asked why New York doctors cannot prescribe it outside 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,” Mr. Hannity said in a Saturday op-ed. “However, Cuomo’s executive order forbids pharmacies from filling the prescriptions.”

He said that Mr. Cuomo “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.”

New York has become ground zero in the United States for COVID-19, with Mr. Cuomo reporting Sunday 122,031 cases and 4,159 deaths. More than 330,000 cases have been reported nationwide, with nearly 9,500 deaths.

The Washington Times has reached out to the New York governor’s office for comment.

The FDA issued Monday an emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating the novel coronavirus. Early initial studies out of France and China indicate the drug has been effective in helping patients recover, although the sample sizes were too small to be statistically significant.

A Sermo survey released Thursday of doctors in 30 countries found that hydroxychloroquine was the highest-rated drug for treating the virus, followed by the antibiotic azithromycin.

Before the FDA’s emergency authorization, at least 11 states had issued restrictions on the dispersal of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19, citing concerns about stockpiling that could result in shortages for lupus and arthritis patients, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

“Other states are expected to – and may have already implemented – similar limits on dispensing or other guidance regulating the use of these drugs in the fast-moving world of protecting consumers and the supply of drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the academy in a March 30 statement.

In Michigan, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs warned in a March 24 letter that “administrative action” could be taken against doctors who hoard or prescribe the drugs for COVID-19. A week later, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested supplies of hydroxychloroquine from the strategic national stockpile.

At Saturday’s press briefing, Mr. Trump said 29 million doses would be directed to the national stockpile.

“I may take it. I’ll have to ask my doctors about that. But I may take it,” Mr. Trump said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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