David J. Phillip / APA bottle of hydroxychloroquine sits on a table outside the entrance to The Resort at Texas City nursing home. (David J. Phillip / AP)
One day after the Ohio Board of Pharmacy acted to ban the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, the board reversed its decision.
The anti-malarial drug has shown promise as a treatment for individuals infected with the coronavirus, although the jury is still out on its overall effectiveness. Its use has been supported by President Donald Trump, which has led to extensive media pushback criticizing the virus.
The action to allow the drug to be prescribed came as the Ohio Department of Health reported the state had more than 1,100 people hospitalized who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Fox News. The 1,122 people reported hospitalized on Tuesday topped a previous state high of 1,103 in April.
A terse note on the board’s website said that as “a result of the feedback received by the medical and patient community and at the request of Governor DeWine, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has withdrawn proposed rule 4729:5-5-21 of the Administrative Code. Therefore, prohibitions on the prescribing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in Ohio for the treatment of COVID-19 will not take effect at this time.”
“This will allow the Board to reexamine the issue with the assistance of the State Medical Board of Ohio, clinical experts, and other stakeholders to determine appropriate next steps,” the notice said.
The rule had been scheduled to take effect Thursday, and the board did not further explain its reasoning for the change.
Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday he sided with Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, that decisions on treatments should be made between patients and their doctors, according to the Dayton Daily News.
“Therefore, I am asking the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to halt their new rule prohibiting the selling or dispensing of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19,” DeWine said.
“The Board of Pharmacy and the State Medical Board of Ohio should revisit the issue, listen to the best medical science, and open the process up for comment and testimony from experts.”
The reversal of the ban on hydroxychloroquine came as the state was revising its coronavirus rules by limiting the hours of bars to deal with a recent spike in cases.
Cameron McNamee, director of board policy and communications, told the Columbus Dispatch the initial ban on hydroxychloroquine was “a patient safety issue.”
Should the government let patients and doctors make health decisions?
McNamee said Trump’s advocacy concerning the drug was not the reason the board was trying to restrict its use.
“We’re looking at the best science to determine what’s best for the patients of Ohio.”
“The long and short of it is, we want people to focus on what works, such as social distancing and mask use,” McNamee said. “We ultimately want to make sure people are being safe and not exposing themselves to drugs that have shown not to be effective in treating COVID-19.”
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