Lansing, MI – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office has reversed its stance on the hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine drugs that President Donald Trump has repeatedly heralded as being a successful treatment for some COVID-19 patients.
Just last week, Whitmer’s office threatened “administrative action” against physicians who were prescribing the drugs for such use within the state of Michigan, FOX News reported.
Bureau of Professional Licensing Director Deb Gagliardi and Enforcement Division Director Forrest Pasanski addressed the issue in a recent letter to “licensed prescribers and dispensers,” according to the news outlet.
“The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has received multiple allegations of Michigan physicians inappropriately prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to themselves, family, friends, and/or coworkers without a legitimate medical purpose,” the joint letter read.
They warned that “prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine without further proof of efficacy for treating COVID-19 or with the intent to stockpile the drug may create a shortage” of the anti-malarial drug for patients who needed it for its intended uses.
“These drugs have not been proven scientifically or medically to treat COVID-19,” Pasanski and Gagliardi said at the time. “Reports of this conduct will be evaluated and may be further investigated for administrative action.”
But Whitmer’s office did an about-face this week, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted authorization to use the anti-malarial drugs as a potential emergency treatment for patients battling the novel coronavirus, FOX News reported.
Under the emergency use authorization, the drugs may be “distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” the FDA said.
During a press briefing on Monday, Whitmer said that she is constantly adjusting policies as new information about the pandemic emerge, Bridge Magazine reported.
Whitmer’s administration subsequently put in a request to receive the drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile.
The accessibility of the drugs was made possible by Bayer Pharmaceutical, which donated one million doses of chloroquine phosphate, and Sandoz, which donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate, Bridge Magazine reported.
Those donations have been accepted into the Strategic National Stockpile.
“President Trump is taking every possible step to protect Americans from the coronavirus and provide them with hope,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement to FOX News. “Scientists in America and around the world have identified multiple potential therapeutics for COVID-19, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.”
Azar credited President Trump for his role in securing larger quantities of the anti-malarial drugs.
“The President’s bold leadership and the hard work of FDA and HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response have succeeded in securing this large donation of medicine,” he said. “We’ll continue working around the clock to get American patients access to therapeutics that may help them battle COVID-19, while building the evidence to evaluate which options are effective.”
President Trump set off a firestorm of controversy when he announced during a White House coronavirus task force briefing that hydroxychloroquine was an FDA-approved drug that could treat COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine has FDA approval to treat malaria, not coronavirus, but doctors all over the world have bene experimenting with it and seeing success, CNN reported.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the drug has been proven effective when it was used to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses – including the SARS strain that causes Covid-19 – as well as other coronaviruses.
The drugs have been in use for a long time to treat other illnesses, so doctors already have a lot of data about how people respond to the FDA-approved medications.
President Trump has represented the drug as being safer than other experimental options at this point and pointed out it was being successfully used to treat lupus and arthritis in some, CNN reported.
“The nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” he explained at a task force briefing.