Is Big Pharma Suppressing Hydroxychloroquine?

In the May 14 edition of her Fox News show, Laura Ingraham interviewed Dr. Ivette Lozano, a Texas physician, who was having trouble with a pharmacy that had refused to fill her off-label prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) without submitting to new red tape. It seems the Texas pharmacy board is requiring physicians to reveal patients’ medical diagnoses before allowing pharmacies to dispense HCQ prescriptions.

Dr. Lozano’s pharmacy must have been citing Title 22, Part 15, Chapter 291, Subchapter A, §291.30. However, if one goes to Texas Pharmacy Rules at the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, and clicks on the link for Subchapter A just under Chapter 291, the webpage one is taken to does not list §291.30.

A little more digging gave me Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Response at the Texas Medical Board, which, under “COVID-19 Emergency Rules,” has this link: Texas State Board of Pharmacy -- §291.30. Medication Limitations. That link is for a webpage showing that §291.30 was an emergency action, and it makes this requirement of Texas physicians like Dr. Lozano who prescribe HCQ,: “(1)the prescription or medication order bears a written diagnosis from the prescriber consistent with the evidence for its use.”

On May 15, the day after Laura Ingraham’s interview of Dr. Lozano, The Texan ran “Pharmacy Board Loosens Restrictions on Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions, Reversing Course” by Kim Roberts:

Because of her concern for patient privacy that seemed incompatible with the unprecedented rule, Lozano contacted State Senator Bob Hall to ask for help reaching the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. Hall was concerned about the rule that seemed to be inhibiting the dispensing of these potentially life-saving prescriptions…

Additionally, he is concerned about “collusion between the pharmacy board and pharmaceutical companies who want to prevent the use of an inexpensive drug while they develop a new, expensive drug.”

The article also states that Dr. Lozano “learned about the treatment from one of President Trump’s press conferences.” The article did not include a link to the new webpage at the Texas pharmacy board from which it quoted the new relaxed rules. Perhaps Roberts found the quote at this webpage, which outlines the rationale for issuing §291.30 in the first place. This May 15 Guidance Statement attempts to further clarify the rule. (It also states that it is “in response to several news stories,” perhaps Laura’s.) The operative language is surely this:

The intended use for the drug is not required if the practitioner determines the furnishing of this information is not in the best interest of the patient in accordance with Board rule 291.34 (b)(7). [See (7)(A)(vii), it’s on the second page of the rule.]

Not buying it. If the intent here was to prevent “stockpiling” or “hoarding,” then the requirement of submitting a “written diagnosis” would be unnecessary. And how is the Board “reversing course”? The Board is merely restating its rule. After reading the May 15 Guidance Statement, one wonders what Roberts is thinking about? The Board will have reversed itself when it rescinds its demand for a “written diagnosis.” The Texas Register provides a longer version of §291.30 that goes into more of the reasoning behind the emergency rule.

So how did I find out about §291.30? After all, I’m not a pharmacist, nor do I play one on television. Well, I found out about the Texas rule at the American Medical Association’s Boards of pharmacy and other actions relating to COVID-19 prescribing, which details the rules on this matter for 33 states, including Texas. The AMA worries that prescriptions for some medications, including Dr. Lozano’s off-label use of HCQ, might be… “inappropriate.”

In Derek Lowe’s “Hydroxychloroquine Update, May 4,” we read that “some people have (very vocally) suggested that HCQ be given prophylactically, and a study testing this is underway in the UK.” Here in America, HCQ is already being used prophylactically to prevent malaria for those who travel abroad, such as to Africa. The point here is that HCQ is so safe that it’s long been prescribed for perfectly healthy people to keep them that way. Perhaps HCQ should be over-the-counter (OTC) during the pandemic. Perhaps healthy adults should be allowed to carry HCQ and self-medicate; much like patients who never leave home without the nitroglycerin pills they use for their angina.

Laura Ingraham has been a champion of the off-label use of HCQ for COVID-19 for a couple of months now. To watch the segment referred to above, click on “The Ingraham Angle” -- Thursday, May 14, and then click on the 10:20 point on the progress bar. That will position you toward the end of Laura’s interview of Michael Caputo, with whom she discusses HCQ. That segues into the interview of Dr. Lozano. The whole thing takes about eight minutes. One can also find the video at Laura’s homepage at Fox News in the Full Episodes row. [See also American Thinker's "Is Big Pharma behind the great war on hydroxychloroquine" from May 5. -ed.]

I haven’t been able to ascertain whether HCQ is manufactured in the U.S., but I do read that India “manufactures 70% of the world's supply” of HCQ. Perhaps the concerns of Texas State Senator Hall (no relation) about “collusion” are valid. Perhaps Big Pharma is seeking a ban on the off-label use of a drug that is so dirt cheap that they can’t make any money making it.

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.