Plus, the latest pharmacy and healthcare news to know this week.
Yesterday, the FDA greenlit the use of chloroquine as a test treatment for COVID-19. The drug will be used in a clinical trial as the agency aims to fast track approval of other antiviral medications for treatment.
Why It Matters
The approval of chloroquine testing is the latest in the U.S. government’s efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 across the country. Chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, has been available for decades and is commonly used to treat malaria, severe arthritis, and lupus. In a press briefing with the president, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn emphasized that although a possible treatment had been identified, there’s still a lack of clarity around appropriate dosages.
Researchers around the world are also testing the use of chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment. So far, lab results and anecdotal reports have been promising. One study published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal showed that the drug could effectively treat the virus that causes SARS, which is in the same coronavirus family as COVID-19.
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While the clinical trial is ongoing, pharmacies should expect to see an uptick in prescriptions for chloroquine and questions from patients. But there are already concerns about supply, which would also negatively affect patients who already take chloroquine for other reasons. According to Reuters, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has added chloroquine to its list of drugs in shortage and pharmacies have reported difficulties placing new orders with distributors. In the midst of this, some pharma companies are stepping up. Rising Pharmaceuticals recently slashed its prices for chloroquine by 50% and Bayer will donate 3 million tablets of chloroquine phosphate to the U.S. government.
Other healthcare news to know:
1. The FDA is encouraging licensed pharmacists to make hand sanitizers amid shortages. Bloomberg.
2. If passed, the Prescription Drug Pricing Act could save more than $94 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Healthcare Finance.
3. To combat coronavirus, CMS will expand telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries. Modern Healthcare.
4. A recent analysis shows a widening gap in life expectancy of seniors in urban vs. rural areas. Kaiser Health News.
5. CMS unveiled a new Medicare Part D savings model to reduce insulin copayments. Lexology.