PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Shipments of the drug hydroxychloroquine will be making their way to Dade and Broward County hospitals to help people seriously ill with COVID-19, according to Florida’s governor.
Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis announced in the opening of his Saturday coronavirus briefing that hospital systems in Dade, Broward and Hillsborough counties, plus some hospitals in Orlando will receive the drug.
Hydroxychloroquine is currently under investigation for treatment of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.
“It was being utilized in the state of New York. We had a Floridian who used it and was in very bad shape and it seemed to clear up the lungs and the virus," said Desantis.
DeSantis said U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, “a friend of mine,” helped to get him a connection to Israeli drug company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries who has the drug.
“So we are working with Teva and we’ve arranged shipments,” DeSantis said.
"I’m not a doctor. I’m not telling anyone to take it or not take it, but I do believe in the idea of a right to try. If someone is in bad shape and there is no other treatment available and a doctor believes this is something that is helpful, we want that patient be able to have that.”
DeSantis said once the hospitals who need it have it and there are other hospitals that would like to get it, that those systems should let the Florida Department of Emergency Management know.
“We want to be able to help people throughout the state and we will work to coordinate that. If someone is in dire condition and has no other option, we want to be able to give them all the opportunities they have.” He thanked Teva for “turning around that order quickly” and getting the shipment out to Florida. He did not give a specific timeline of the arrival of the drug.
DeSantis stressed that a doctor would have to work with the patient in the decision to be treated with hydroxychloroquine. The drug would be used to treat coronavirus in what is called “off-label.”
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved hhydroxychloroquine is classified as an anti-malarial drug and is useful in treating several forms of malaria. It is often prescribed as a drug to treat lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. It not yet prescribed for coronavirus, but can be used at a doctor’s discretion “off-label.” “Off-label” means the medication is being used in a manner not specified in the FDA’s approved packaging label, or insert.
Korean doctors used the anti-malaria drugs to treat COVID-19 with some success, according to a paper filed with Elsevier, a medical content publishing company, in March 2020, but the effectiveness is still unproven.