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Sisolak signs restriction order for 2 drugs

Updated March 25, 2020 - 9:46 am

CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed an emergency measure to safeguard the threatened supply of two drugs being hoarded for possible use in the treatment of COVID-19.

The governor signed the emergency regulation Tuesday on the recommendation of the state Board of Pharmacy.

The drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, are used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and are being studied by the Food and Drug Administration for possible use in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19.

In a letter to the governor, the Pharmacy Board noted that the safety and the efficacy of the drugs “have not been established” in the treatment of COVID-19 and that “an emergency exists due to the hoarding and stockpiling” of the drugs.

The governor’s order prohibits the prescribing and dispensing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for a COVID-19 diagnosis, requires the appropriate prescription coding for their “legitimate medical purposes” and limits prescriptions to a 30-day supply.

The order doesn’t limit use of the drugs in hospitals, only in outpatient settings where hoarding is evident, the governor’s office stressed. Doctors may continue to prescribe them to hospitalized COVID-19 patients at their discretion.

“At this point in time, there is no known cure for COVID-19 and we must not withhold these drugs from those who need them,” the governor said in a statement. “The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home for Nevada, not to stockpile these drugs.”

In a companion statement, Dr. Ishan Azzam, chief medical officer for the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said the regulation would protect patients with COVID-19.

“While studies are underway on the usefulness of these drugs in treating COVID-19, we must deal with facts, not fiction,” Azzam said.

The drugs gained national attention when President Donald Trump last week touted them as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.

This story was updated Wednesday to clarify that the governor’s order applies to outpatient prescribing of the drugs, not in-hospital use.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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