Dr. Anthony Fauci says that if he were treating a patient with coronavirus, he would prescribe hydroxychloroquine. On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Sisolak made it illegal for your personal doctor to do just that.
The move could have deadly consequences for Nevadans battling the virus.
There is no cure for coronavirus, but there is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine can help those who are sick. The medication has been in use for decades to treat lupus and malaria.
Doctors around the world have noticed that coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine have done significantly better. Studies from France and China have shown promising results. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, two Kansas doctors said they’re using the drug to treat coronavirus and proactively giving it to front-line medical workers.
Last week, President Donald Trump touted the drug as having “shown very, very encouraging early results.”
On Tuesday, a Philadelphia radio host asked Fauci if he would prescribe hydroxychloroquine to a patient with coronavirus. Fauci leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and his thoughts are widely respected.
Fauci said “of course” he would prescribe the drug, “particularly if people have no other option.” He went on: “Physicians throughout the country can prescribe that in an off-label way. Which means they can write it for something it was not approved for.”
Not in Nevada. On Tuesday, Sisolak signed an emergency regulation prohibiting doctors outside of hospitals from prescribing that drug and a similar one, chloroquine. His justification is to prevent shortages and a run on the drugs.
“A prescription for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine may not be issued, filled or dispensed to an outpatient for a COVID-19 diagnosis,” the rule states.
“During this crisis, we should listen to the science & the medical professionals,” Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted Wednesday. “The opposite approach: the Governor of Nevada, practicing medicine without a license — trying to score political points against Trump — and prohibiting Nevada doctors from prescribing medicines to treat COVID19.”
Sisolak tweeted back, “I’m glad we agree that it’s critical to trust science and listen to medical professionals.”
If only that were the case. Sisolak’s order prohibits non-hospital doctors from writing a prescription for hydroxychloroquine. That’s not listening to medical professionals. It’s tying their hands. Sisolak is allowing doctors in hospitals to use the drug, which doesn’t make sense. If the drug is effective, patients need to get it before they require hospitalization. That will preserve Nevada’s limited number of hospital beds and ventilators.
Even among Democrats, Sisolak is an outlier. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, announced Sunday that his state is starting clinical trials of the drugs. Good. Let’s find out if this works or not.
That’s what Sisolak should be doing. Instead, he’s made it illegal for Nevada doctors to use their judgment.
An earlier version misstated when Gov. Sisolak signed the emergency regulation.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.