The first restrictions were imposed last week in Idaho. The board there imposed a temporary rule that bars pharmacies from dispensing two drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — unless the prescription includes a written diagnosis of a condition that the drugs have been proven to treat. The rule also limits prescriptions to a 14-day supply unless a patient had been previously taking the medication.
“We wanted to try to get out in front of that as early as we could,” said Nicki Chopski, executive director of the board in Idaho, where pharmacists began reporting a significant uptick in prescriptions for the medications last week. The prescriptions, she said, were being written by doctors for themselves and their family members, often in large quantities with refills.
Texas adopted a similar rule on Friday, including another malaria drug — mefloquine — as well as azithromycin, commonly known by its brand name, Zithromax Z-Pak. The drug, which is used to treat bacterial infections, has been mentioned by Mr. Trump as another potential treatment for coronavirus when taken in conjunction with the anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine. The effectiveness of the treatment remains unproven.
Allison Benz, executive director of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, said pharmacists were reporting an unusual increase in prescriptions for these drugs written by doctors for themselves, their family members and their office staff. As in Idaho, patients who legitimately need medications for conditions that the drugs have been proven to treat will not be restricted from getting them as a result of the new rule, Ms. Benz said.
On Sunday morning in an emergency meeting reported on by the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy barred pharmacists from dispensing the drugs to treat coronavirus unless a person had tested positive for the virus, or the request had been approved directly by the pharmacy board’s executive director.
In a statement, CVS said that pharmacists are to use their “professional judgment to determine whether a prescription is valid and appropriate to dispense,” noting that pharmacists would comply with any applicable state board regulations.
A spokeswoman from Walgreens concurred that its pharmacists will follow whatever requirements are set in the state where they practice, also noting that the company had issued guidelines for dispensing two of the drugs in highest demand — chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Walgreens will only allow a 14-day supply for new prescriptions in order to help ensure that the medications remain available for those who need them, the spokeswoman said.