By David Jacobs | The Center Square
A pharmaceutical company is donating to Louisiana 400,000 tablets of an anti-malaria drug that may have promise in treating COVID-19, officials announced Monday.
The hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets donated by Amneal Pharmaceuticals will be available for two clinical trials and for doctors to prescribe to their patients, according to Attorney General Jeff Landry, whose office announced the donation.
The drug has been around for decades but has not been proven effective against COVID-19.
“This donation will allow us to conduct clinical trials examining how hydroxychloroquine may help clear the virus from the lungs of infected patients and to potentially help shield healthcare workers who are on the front lines treating patients,” Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
One trial will give hydroxychloroquine to people who have COVID-19. The other trial will test the drug as a preventive measure for health care workers. Trials will be conducted at the University Medical Center in New Orleans and at the LSU Medical School locations in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the statement says.
Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is used to treat malaria and other autoimmune diseases but the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. However, the FDA on Sunday issued an emergency use authorization to test whether hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine might be effective in treating COVID-19, according to published reports.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate donated by Sandoz and one million doses of chloroquine phosphate donated by Bayer Pharmaceuticals for possible use in treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or for use in clinical trials, HHS announced.
The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy last week issued a memo urging pharmacists to “exercise their professional discretion” when dispensing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for at least the next 30 to 60 days.
“With respect to the dispensing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for the COVID-19 outbreak, the Board strongly encourages dispensing pharmacists in community pharmacies to ensure the prescription bears a COVID-19 diagnosis, and to dispense a maximum of a 14-day supply, with no refills unless a new prescription is presented,” the memo reads in part.
“Amneal’s donation [to Louisiana] is one step toward trying to find treatments and cures for this epidemic,” Landry said. “Right now, there are no silver bullets. We must remain vigilant against the spread of this virus.”
Landry urged the public to follow state and federal social distancing guidelines, which basically recommend staying home as much as possible, avoiding groups, and maintaining about six feet of space between yourself and others when you must go out.
The Louisiana Department of Health will coordinate distribution of the 400,000 hydroxychloroquine tablets, according to Landry’s office.