Health Officials Work To Streamline Access To Malaria Drug For COVID-19
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — State health officials were working on a streamlined way for COVID-19 patients to access two drugs previously used to fight malaria and lupus.
Under a standing order that is still being crafted, Utah Department of Health deputy director Marc Babitz said people could obtain hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine from a pharmacy after submitting to an online screening program.
“If they are recommending treatment, this program is going to help identify where there’s a pharmacy nearby to the patient that could pick up the medication,” Babitz said on Monday. “This really, I think, eliminates barriers for a lot of people to have access to this medication.”
Babitz said a private group approached the Utah Department of Health and asked if it would consider a standing order for patients who qualify to be treated.
After meeting with the group, Babitz said the state thought the plan was a “good idea.”
“There’s some very preliminary studies that suggest (the drugs) may be beneficial,” Babitz said. “For short courses, the side effects are very limited and really not a major concern for the vast majority of people.”
Babitz acknowledged under ideal circumstances, more research could be done on the impact the two drugs have on the novel coronavirus. But given the current state of emergency and the fact that the medicines have been used to treat other illnesses for decades, acting on the early returns seem to be worth the risk.
“I hate to say it, but our society is kind of at risk from this virus,” Babitz said. “In my opinion, if I weigh the benefits and the risks of this medicine versus the risks of not doing anything, it’s an easy decision to me. We need to do something and see. If it turns out it’s not working, we can always stop. If it turns out it’s working really well, we ought to try to ramp up production if we can.”
Babitz said state officials were navigating through some “paperwork” and “legal” issues, but the hope was to have the standing order in place before the end of the week.
According to the Deseret News, a spokesperson for Gov. Gary Herbert also said an announcement could come this week.
“This is a risk-benefit decision that has the potential for really helping people in our state to slow this virus spread, to not have people be seriously ill where they have to go to the hospital,” Babitz said. “That’s a win.”
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.
If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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