Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an emergency regulation Tuesday to prevent the hoarding of two pharmaceutical drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
The new regulations allow doctors to prescribe the drugs on an out-patient basis for their intended uses of treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But it prohibits their use for COVID-19 — which has not been approved by the FDA — unless they’re prescribed while the patient is being treated in a medical facility.
The order says those restrictions will help “ensure access for Nevada patients to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for legitimate medical purposes” by preventing people from hoarding the medicines.
There was a global spike in demand for the medicines after President Trump said both drugs had shown promise as treatments for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, during a March 19 press conference.
Dr. Shabada Asad is Director of Infectious Disease at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas and a member of Sisolak’s Medical Advisory Team. She addressed the unprecedented demand in a press conference with the governor Thursday.
“There are different drugs that we know work against the virus in laboratories,” Asad said. “But how that translates in a person, nobody knows as yet.”
President Trump was referring to a small French study that found the drugs were helpful in reducing the presence of COVID-19 in 20 patients. The World Health Organization is still testing their efficacy in a larger, controlled study.
Mark Radanovich is a pharmacist in Madera County, California. He said after President Trump’s speech, the wholesaler he gets medications from was out of stock of the two drugs.
“I heard from some other pharmacies there were some requests for large amounts of the hydroxychloroquine,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘What’s going on?’”
Dr. Robin Titus is a physician working in rural Northern Nevada, where she also serves as a Republican member of the state assembly. She sees many of her patients during house calls, not in a medical facility, and she thinks Sisolak overstepped.
“I think their intentions were good, they had to do something immediately,” Titus said. “At some point, they need to trust that the providers who are trained to be doing that should be able to prescribe it.”
And Sisolak was met with criticism from outside Nevada, too. In a tweet, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accused the governor of “practicing medicine w/o a license.”
But Fred Lokken, chair of the Political Science Department at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, believes the governor’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been appropriate so far.
“What Sisolak did was the right thing,” Lokken said. “More governors should do it and the President should implement it, as well.”
State Sen. Joe Hardy agrees. He’s also a doctor and lives in Boulder City, near Las Vegas. But Hardy said Sisolak’s order would have been received better if it had been announced through a medical professional in the first place.
“Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a Dr. Fauci who stands behind him with his arms folded and explains the medicine behind it,” he said. “Have a doctor say these things.”
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.