- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has come under criticism for a statewide order cracking down on prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted by President Trump to treat the novel coronavirus.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued an order Wednesday warning physicians against writing prescriptions “without a legitimate medical purpose” and instructing pharmacists to evaluate the “legitimacy” of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine prescriptions.

The department cited concerns about stockpiling amid “multiple allegations” of doctors writing prescriptions for family and friends, adding that reports of such conduct “may be further investigated for administrative action” and that other health professionals are required to report “inappropriate prescribing practices.”

Michigan isn’t the first state to restrict the use of the drug — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an emergency order last week over concerns about “bad actors” creating a shortage — but the moves have fueled allegations on the right that Democrats and media outlets are seeking to play politics with the drug.

Kathy Hoekstra, who previously worked for Republican businessman Herman Cain, accused Ms. Whitmer of putting patients at risk with her administration’s “knee-jerk scare tactics.”

“[I]f you live in Michigan, and you or a loved one is infected with this potentially lethal disease, you’re out of luck,” said Kathy Hoekstra, who has written for conservative, in a Thursday op-ed for the Detroit News. “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs literally threatened all doctors and pharmacists in the state who prescribe or dispense hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.”

RedState’s Elizabeth Vaughn cited a Facebook post by a Michigan man, Transportation Improvement Association CEO Jim Santilli, who credited hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin with saving his life after being hospitalized for COVID-19.

“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,” said Ms. Vaughn. “She’s playing with people’s lives. To treat these patients and their physicians as criminals is unconscionable.”

Ms. Whitmer’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The Michigan agency said that hydroxychloroquine, a drug commonly used for malaria and lupus, has not “scientifically or medically proven” to treat COVID-19, while critics noted that doctors often prescribed drugs off-label, and that studies and clinical trials are still underway for the new virus that triggered a pandemic.

“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,” said Ms. Hoekstra.

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, accused Mr. Sisolak of “trying to score political points against Trump,” while Mr. Sisolak said the restrictions were needed to avert “a shortage of critical drugs for those who need it the most.”

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

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