By Mitchell Kukulka | Mitchell.Kukulka@mdn.net |Posted Mar 31, 2020
The state recently clarified its stance on the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients.
Rep. Annette Glenn, a Midland Republican who serves as vice-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, announced that she spoke with Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) representatives this week to ensure that drug is available for use by coronavirus victims in Michigan.
Glenn was joined by other lawmakers in a briefing on the use of the drug, which has shown promise in initial clinical trials as a treatment for coronavirus and has received support from the White House and federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a news release.
During the briefing, representatives from LARA clarified that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not banned physicians from using the drugs if they believe they will benefit a patient.
“Today was a first step in getting much-needed clarification to assure physicians and pharmacists they can freely prescribe and fill prescriptions for this coronavirus treatment,” Glenn stated in the release. “Things change daily with new state orders and rules, and I’ll continue to work with state officials to make certain local residents have the information and clarification they need, from determining which businesses and employees make up the essential workforce to ensuring patient access to drugs they need for treatment.”
Glenn stated LARA created “widespread controversy” last week when the agency issued a statewide order that was perceived by some healthcare professionals as threatening the licenses of physicians who prescribed the drug for coronavirus treatment, and pharmacists who filled such prescriptions.
The correspondence from LARA, which was released on March 24, addressed a “growing state and national concern” over licensees inappropriately prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to themselves, family, friends and coworkers without a legitimate medical purpose, according to Michigan.gov.
“Prescribers and dispensers have a responsibility to apply the best standards of care and use their clinical judgment when prescribing and dispensing these and any other drugs to treat patients with legitimate medical conditions,” said LARA communications manager David Harns. “Hoarding and stockpiling drugs for one’s own personal use is inappropriate.”
According to LARA, stockpiling the drugs might create a shortage for patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments for which the drugs are proven treatments.
“I’ve heard from doctors and pharmacists in our community who were upset and concerned about LARA’s threat memo,” Glenn stated. “Healthcare professionals and their patients in Bay and Midland counties need clear, unequivocal answers, to ensure they’re able to use any drugs or treatment available to save the lives of our family, friends, and fellow community members.”
Glenn believes people have the right to be prescribed the drug if their doctor deems it necessary, especially since Michigan has a Right to Try law passed in 2014 that guarantees potentially terminal patients the right to try any drug they believe may ease their suffering.
Locally, the public relations manager at MidMichigan Health said the hospital system does have hydroxychloroquine available in all its pharmacies. These pharmaceuticals can be used to treat symptoms of respiratory illnesses.
“As part of our overall treatment plan for the virus, we tasked a clinical team with reviewing medical evidence and protocols,” said Millie Jezior. “They have drafted guidelines to use these therapies if needed in COVID-19 patients.”
Daily News Reporter Ashley Schafer contributed to this report.