Ohio pharmacy board backs down on banning drug for COVID-19

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio pharmacy board reversed course Thursday and tossed a rule that would have prohibited use of a malaria drug for patients with COVID-19. The decision followed public feedback and a request by Gov. Mike DeWine to ditch the rule.

At issue was the prescribing of the drug hydroxychloroquine, whose effectiveness for the coronavirus has been widely questioned. On Wednesday, the pharmacy board banned its use as a coronavirus treatment, noting that the Food and Drug Administration previously revoked the emergency use of the drug.

The FDA “made this determination based on recent results from a large, randomized clinical trial in hospitalized patients that found these medicines showed no benefit for decreasing the likelihood of death or speeding recovery,” the state pharmacy board said.

But on Thursday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Steven Hahn said on NBC’s “Today” show that the drug’s use should be between doctor and patient. DeWine said he agreed with that assessment.

“The Board of Pharmacy and the State Medical Board of Ohio should revisit the issue, listen to the best medical science, and open the process up for comment and testimony from experts,” DeWine said.

The board said it decided to roll back the rule as “a result of the feedback received by the medical and patient community and at the request of Governor DeWine.” It plans to reexamine the issue along with the state medical board.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump once again promoted the use of the drug when he retweeted a viral video of a group of doctors promoting the use of the drug. Both Twitter and Facebook have removed the content in efforts to keep the sites free of harmful misinformation about the virus.

The number of daily coronavirus cases reported by the Ohio Health Department remain high, including 1,396 cases reported Wednesday.

Also this week, the Health Department said an all-time high of 1,122 COVID-19 patients were being treated in Ohio’s hospitals on Tuesday, including 348 in intensive care and 174 on a ventilator.

“Ohioans have worked hard to slow the spread of this disease,” said Lance Himes, the agency’s interim director. “However, these numbers are a stark reminder that this virus is very much still with us.”

Ohio is currently under a statewide mask order. Local efforts to clamp down further have had mixed results.

In Columbus, a judge on Tuesday quickly shot down a city order closing bars and restaurants at 10 p.m., setting a hearing in two weeks where evidence can be presented for and against such a shutdown.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein say the order is needed because compliance with social distancing worsens late at night.

Franklin County, home to Columbus, has reported 16,311 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, the most of any county in Ohio.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press