Bahamas Pharmacy Council sets strict guidelines over use of malaria drug to treat COVID-19

Bahamas Pharmacy Council sets strict guidelines over use of malaria drug to treat COVID-19

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Pharmacy Council said yesterday it has observed and reviewed increased reports of prescription drugs being issued for prophylactic purposes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These included, hydroxycholoroquine, chloroquine, and azithromycin.

Hydroxycholoroquine is used to prevent or treat malaria infections, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The drug, which has been used for experimental COVID-19 treatment, is listed as “currently in shortage” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), due to a “significant surge in demand”.

In its guidelines issued to stakeholders, obtained by Eyewitness News, the Bahamas Pharmacy Council said: “These medications have not yet been proven to be beneficial for preventing or treating COVID-19 and concerns have been raised that this activity may lead to stockpiling of medication, inappropriate use and potential drug shortages for patients with a legitimate need.

“Due to the narrow therapeutic window for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, the Bahamas Pharmacy Council encourages both medical providers and pharmacists to follow established guidelines when prescribing and filling these medications.”

The council said in order to protect the public health and safety, no prescription or medical order for hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine should be dispensed by a pharmacist for a COVID-19 diagnosis unless the prescription meets all requirements outlined by the council — the prescription bears a written diagnosis from the prescriber consistent with the evidence for its use; the diagnosis has been confirmed by a positive test result which is documented on the prescription or medical order; the prescription is limited to no more than a seven-day supply and no refills may be permitted unless a new prescription or medical order is furnished.”

The council circulated the guidelines to stakeholders yesterday for feedback.

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization to allow hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, “as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible”.

On Tuesday, the FDA said all manufacturers were ramping up production and the agency was working with them to assess their supplies and ensure produce can happen “expeditiously and safely”.

The FDA said it was actively evaluating market demand for patients dependent on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treatment of malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has also accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate to the national stockpile and one million doses of chloroquine phosphate for possible use in treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or for use in clinical trials,” it said. 

“Use of the donated medications is expected to help ease supply pressures for the drugs.

“This is a fluctuating and dynamic situation and the FDA is actively engaged.

“The agency is updating its shortages lists regularly and continuing to communicate in real-time so that patients and healthcare providers have the most current information on product shortages in the U.S.”