A new national survey conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) shows that local pharmacists highly disagree with recent actions by some states to limit the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine, a well-established malaria drug, as a possible treatment for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The NCPA COVID-19 Survey, conducted between March 26 and March 30, was sent to approximately 8000 independent pharmacy owners and managers, 460 of whom responded.

Several weeks ago, President Donald Trump expressed confidence that hydroxychloroquine may be used to treat patients infected with COVID-19, which led to supply shortages, according to the company press release. In response, some state boards of pharmacy responded by placing restrictions on dispensing the drug. More recently, the FDA announced emergency use authorization for 1 of the drugs held in the national stockpile.

"The states have a legitimate concern about hoarding, unethical prescribing, and shortages for existing patients. There may be some relief if hospitals choose to obtain it from the national stockpile or if pharmacies are allowed to compound the medications," said B. Douglas Hoey, PharmD, MBA, CEO of the NCPA, in a company press release. "Pharmacies may still see prescriptions for off-label use but I think that's a decision that should be made by patients testing positive and their doctor and pharmacist, and not regulators or political officials."

The survey found that 83.8% of independent pharmacists feel that they should be able to dispense a limited supply of the drugs as long as a patient has tested positive for COVID-19 and is under a physician’s care. Meanwhile, 68.4% of pharmacists indicated that the state restrictions have gone too far.

In addition, the survey found that 90% of local pharmacists said they are having a hard time getting the drugs, specifically those who work in rural and undeserved communities. Approximately 67% of independent pharmacists said that the states that have restricted patient access to the drugs could be endangering patient lives.

"Many patients need these drugs for other serious conditions. The EUA creates a program for more controlled use and adverse event reporting. We hope to see more evidence to be optimistic that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could be effective for some people against COVID-19," Hoey said in a press release. "Certainly, we need more data. But cutting off the supply for patients who are under the appropriate medical supervision and who could benefit is an overreaction."

REFERENCE
84 percent of local pharmacists say patients should have access to experimental COVID-19 treatment even as states move to restrict [news release]. Alexandria, VA; PR Newswire: March 30, 2020. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/84-percent-of-local-pharmacists-say-patients-should-have-access-to-experimental-covid-19-treatment-even-as-states-move-to-restrict-301031953.html. Accessed April 1, 2020.