Pharmacies Setting Up Measures to Prevent Hoarding of Potential COVID-19 Treatments

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Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Pharmacies CVS Health and Express Scripts, part of Cigna Corp, are setting up measures to prevent hoarding in the United States of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and other treatments that are being tried against the new coronavirus.

Walgreens Boots Alliance has placed limits on prescriptions of chloroquine, which is also used to fight malaria, and hydroxychloroquine.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week touted the malaria drugs, tried with some success against the new coronavirus, which led to a spike in demand amid the fast-spreading outbreak, according to pharmacists.

Both CVS and Express Scripts said they are setting up limits on hydroxychloroquine, antibiotic azithromycin, a protease inhibitor and albuterol inhalers.

The move aims to enable patients with chronic conditions to access their treatments. Hydroxychloroquine, for instance, is a treatment for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in addition to malaria, while albuterol is used to manage asthma.

Walgreens now has a 14-day limit for new prescriptions, a 30-day supply limit for refills, and a reduction in 90-day prescriptions to 30 days, spokeswoman Kelli Teno said in a statement.

CVS said it would work with its clients, which include employers and health insurers, to set an appropriate limit on the use of the drug for potential use in patients with COVID-19, the highly-contagious respiratory illness that has sickened more than 440,000 people worldwide.

Express Scripts spokeswoman Jennifer Luddy said in a statement that the limits are in line with board of pharmacy and other state regulations.

“We are seeing a surge in demand for these potential therapies, and are talking with manufacturers regularly about production,” Luddy said.

Last week, four makers of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine medicines, including Novartis, Mylan NV, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd <Teva TA> and Bayer AG, said they would increase their production and donate the medicine, which is generic.

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