Questions about Oklahoma’s purchase of malaria drug for use against COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State leaders are now having to answer questions about spending millions of dollars on a drug that wasn’t proven to fight coronavirus and some states allegedly got the malaria medication for free.

“But the chloroquine I think it could be something really incredible. I feel good about it, that’s all it is just a feeling.” Said President Donald Trump.

The President reportedly talked about the drug 17 times in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic as it showed early signs of success in china and Europe

“When Trump was touting it, he was jumping on one tiny itty bitty piece of positive news that we had  in a sea of negativity. But you could see as soon as Dr. Fauci immediately came up behind him and said man we don’t know that for sure,” said Dr. David Chansolme. 

Chansolme is the head of infectious disease at Integris Medical in Oklahoma City.

He says Hydrooxychloroquine was actually first used almost 20 years ago against the original SARS outbreak, but it was meant for Malaria.

He says initial use against COVID-19 has shown limited success in some patients.

“Yes they are both microbes but its kinda the different between a city bus and a horse they are totally different things. Was it an ideal treatment? Far from it. Its not an antiviral. We need an antiviral,” said Dr. Chansolme.

But after the early success and repeated mentions by President Trump, the Associated Press reports some 22 states have secured large shipments of chloroquine, including Oklahoma.

Most state getting the drug for free but reportedly Utah, Ohio and Oklahoma paid to secure the pills, with the Sooner State paying $2 million dollars for the medications.

“The State of Oklahoma and the Governor’s Solution Task Force have utilized the $1.2 billion in COVID stimulus funds to ensure Oklahoma is competing in the market place for critical medical supplies, from ventilators, COVID testing supplies, and the latest drugs being researched for treating the novel virus. Due to Oklahoma’s population size and low rate of COVID cases compared to rest of the U.S., the State has had to rely on our own procurement strategy to take care of our nearly 4 million residents as the federal government positions its limited resources to hot spot areas. The State’s strategy on hydroxychloroquine was no different than other COVID-related supplies. As soon as the FDA approved Hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 more than four weeks ago, medical professionals across Oklahoma asked for support to ensure the State had adequate access to this critical drug. The State stepped in as a stop gap by purchasing 100,000 patient doses and arranged for the distribution to be managed by Claremore Compounding Center where hospital in patient or hospital outpatient centers can file prescriptions for their patients suffering from COVID. Because it is being facilitated by a third party, insurance providers are largely covering the cost of the prescription, which will ultimately draw down the final price for the State, which stepped in as a back stop of hydroxychloroquine supplies for Oklahoma’s medical community.”

Shelley Zumwalt, State spokesperson on COVID-19

Some healthcare professionals think it wasn’t the worst use of funds

“We were pressuring the states to do anything they could that we thought might work so hell I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing at all. The fact that some states got it for free would indicate that it was an effective drug and at some point and time you just try to get the medicine however you can,” said Dr. Chansolme.

Chansolme points out that chloroquine is still on the list of treatments for COVID-19 by the National Institute of Health. 

The drug is also used to treat Lupus in the USA and Dr. Chansolme confirms there are concerns about those patients now getting access to the drug right now.

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