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Nevada osteopaths want rules loosened on chloroquine

Updated April 10, 2020 - 6:31 pm

Nevada’s osteopaths want Gov. Steve Sisolak to reverse his emergency regulation limiting the routine prescribing of two existing anti-malarial drugs to treat COVID-19, saying it interferes with their rights as doctors.

Sisolak’s March 24 regulation applies to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, drugs long in use to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and undergoing clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment. The drugs have been touted by President Donald Trump despite potential health risks and inconclusive evidence that they are effective against the illness, which as of Friday had killed more than 100,000 people worldwide.

The governor’s regulation prohibits prescribing the drugs for a COVID-19 diagnosis outside of a hospital setting. Doctors may continue to prescribe them to hospitalized COVID-19 patients at their discretion.

Outside of that, the regulation requires the appropriate prescription coding for their “legitimate medical purposes” and limits prescriptions to a 30-day supply. The governor signed it at the urging of the state Board of Pharmacy because of reports that the drugs were being hoarded.

According to the National Institutes of Health, hydroxychloroquine “has demonstrated antiviral activity” that could make it effective in the treatment of COVID-19 but is “not without risks,” such as heart arrhythmia, seizures, skin reactions, and lowered blood sugar.

But in a March 28 letter to members of the Nevada Osteopathic Medical Association, President Bruce Fong said that the potential benefits outweigh the risks and that the governor’s regulation “clearly interferes with a physician’s decision on how to treat their patients.”

“This current emergency regulation denies our ability to put our patients’ interests first above all else, which is a direct violation of the Hippocratic oath that all of us took upon graduating medical school,” Fong wrote to members.

The osteopath group has hired Reno attorney Joey Gilbert, who wrote to the governor and Board of Pharmacy on Thursday asking that the regulation be amended “so that anyone suffering from this disease can receive treatment if prescribed by a licensed health practitioner, regardless of hospitalization.”

Gilbert threatened legal action Monday to have the regulation invalidated, contending it was enacted without proper justification, was pre-empted by federal law and amounts to the Pharmacy Board acting in the place of doctors.

Representatives for the governor and for the state’s emergency COVID-19 response team did not return requests for comment Friday.

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

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