Update 9/16 – The Oklahoma State Department of Health sent the following statement on the hydroxychloroquine refund:
“OMMA funds temporarily used for the hydroxychloroquine were reallocated back to its original source once OSDH received the CARES money designated for that purchase.
OSDH returned all the hydroxychloroquine to the vendor and has likewise received a full refund.“Erica Rankin-Riley | Public Information Officer | Oklahoma State Department of Health
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s a controversial decision that is still making headlines.
Nearly 17 months after the state came to a mutual settlement agreement to return unused doses hydroxychloroquine for a refund after the state had already spent millions of dollars to have it on hand, Oklahoma taxpayers are questioning whether the transaction has been fully executed.
“Was 100% refunded or was none of it refunded?” said Senator Mary Boren, D-Norman, in a conversation with KFOR Wednesday.
“It should be easy for taxpayers in Oklahoma to be able to know what amount of the $2 million was deposited [back] into the state of Oklahoma’s [bank] account,” she said.
The drug more commonly used to treat ailments like lupus, arthritis and malaria was once touted by many as a cure-all for COVID-19.
The decision to purchase the drug came after the federal Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization, as a treatment for the virus.
Back in April 2020, News 4 ran a story stating that hydroxychloroquine was not proven to treat the coronavirus.
The state purchased the drug from FFF Enterprises in late March of 2020 for $2.622 million, but in 2021 OSDH officials told News 4 that of the 1.2 million doses purchased, none were used by the state.
“In the beginning we had very few good treatment options for COVID, and hydroxychloroquine was something that was talked about,” said Dr. George Monks.
Monks was President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association when the medication was first purchased.
In a statement, the media contact for former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter told KFOR that AG Hunter was working with the Department of Health and the vendor on a buy back solution.
Ultimately, the state decided not to use the medication, and an agreement was made with FFF Enterprises to procure a refund.
“Unfortunately, there was very little evidence that it really worked for COVID. But Governor Stitt purchased $2 million worth for the state of Oklahoma, and it really, to my understanding, went unused. It just sat in the warehouse collecting dust,” Dr. Monks added.
“If Gov. Stitt would have reached out to the medical community, we would have advised him not to buy that medicine. We knew it was not effective.”
Monks went on to say he presumed the medicine may have sat in a warehouse unused, when it could have been reallocated to those who really needed it.
“I’ll be disappointed if the medicine expired and it wasn’t able to be used for any patients,” he continued.
“I hope it was returned and I hope the Oklahoma taxpayers get their money back. “
As many as 20 other states also purchased large quantities of hydroxychloroquine, but only Oklahoma and Utah bought from private wholesalers.
The terms of the agreement included a stipulation that the state could receive a refund for “all unused Products sold to the OSDH at the original Purchase Price of $218.50 per bottle determined by the Parties to have been properly stored at a licensed location in conformity with manufacturer specifications and which remain within the Product’s “use by” or “best by” date (Refundable Products (s)”).
When KFOR reached out to the parties of the agreement Wednesday, the state of Oklahoma and FFF Enterprises, the healthcare company said it had “no comment”, while a representative in the current Attorney General’s office stated by email that “all five payments were made under the terms of the agreement.”
Boren and Monks said the state deserves a more comprehensive explanation.
“In Oklahoma for some reason, the expectation is that that [explanation] is good enough and it’s not,” said Senator Boren.
“[Oklahomans] deserve a government that answers simple questions about money,” she added. “Was 100% refunded, or was none of it refunded?”
“If we don’t get this right, we’re not going to get something else right,” said Monks.
KFOR has requested additional details, including clarity on how much of the medicine was sent back, and how much was actually refunded to the state. See top of article for update.