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Judge rejects restraining order in chloroquine regulation lawsuit

Updated May 29, 2020 - 9:59 am

A judge on Thursday dealt a blow to the Nevada osteopaths suing Gov. Steve Sisolak and other state officials over the governor’s emergency regulation limiting the routine prescribing of two existing anti-malarial drugs to treat COVID-19.

Washoe County District Judge Scott Freeman denied a temporary restraining order that had been requested by the Nevada Osteopathic Medical Association against Sisolak, the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy and Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer Ihsan Azzam.

The motion sought to to block Sisolak’s regulation that targeted chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, controversial drugs touted by President Donald Trump despite potential serious health risks and inconclusive evidence that the drugs are effective in fighting COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has also issued warnings about using them outside a hospital or in clinical trials.

The lawsuit was filed by the Nevada Osteopathic Medical Association and its president Bruce Fong in April. The association’s attorney, Reno lawyer Joey Gilbert, claimed that practice of medicine is a right that’s been given to the pharmacy board and the governor, and called Sisolak’s regulation “ridiculous knee-jerk political reaction” and “borderline criminal.”

Freeman wrote in his decision that the Nevada Osteopathic Medical Association “will not suffer instant harm from the (governor’s) emergency regulation.”

But the case will continue for at least two more weeks, as Freeman said the group’s request for a preliminary injunction in the case merits a hearing, which is scheduled for June 9. But Freeman also noted that the standards for granting for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction are the same under Nevada law.

The National Institute of Health announced on May 14 that it had started a clinical trial to see if hydroxychloroquine, when given together with the antibiotic azithromycin, could prevent hospitalizations and deaths in patients who have contracted the COVID-19 virus, which as of Wednesday had killed more than 100,000 Americans and more than 362,000 people worldwide.

That trial runs counter to warnings issued by the Food and Drug Administration in late April, which cautioned against the use of the malaria drug outside of hospitals or in clinical trials “due to risk of heart rhythm problems,” and noted that those risks may increase when the drug is combined with other medicines “including the antibiotic azithromycin.”

A panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also recommended against doctors using a combination of the two drugs in April due to the risk of sudden death from heart problems.

And earlier this week, the World Health Organization halted trials that involved hydroxychloroquine in several countries over safety fears raised by medical experts that the drug might actually increase the mortality rate among COVID-19 patients.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide.

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