Report: Enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine cost millions

May 7, 2020

Support for the potential use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients may be waning, but millions of dollars has already been pumped into studying and stockpiling the drug.

Trump’s early support of hydroxychloroquine, which he called a potential “game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus, triggered a sudden and dramatic increase in demand for the drug. Researchers wanted to study it. Hospitals wanted to have it.

But now that more data has cast doubt over the effectiveness and safety of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine on coronavirus patients, the tide is turning — and the cost of the frenzy is coming to light.

According to a recent report in Bloomberg, the U.S. has already been pumped million into the drugs.

For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has given Alchem Laboratories Corps. $20.7 million to run a trial comparing hydroxychloroquine to famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, on COVID-19 patients. Researchers at Duke University were also given $50 million from a grant awarded through the Affordable Care Act to study the drug as a preventative measure for front-line workers. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent $200,000 on contracts to get hydroxychloroquine. The Department of Justice also paid $60,000 to buy a supply of the drug from the U.S. prison system. 

Meanwhile, some major hospitals are now ceasing the use of the drugs on COVID-19 patients all together due to concerns of potentially fatal cardiotoxicities. One study of chloroquine in Brazil was halted last month after it was linked to an increased the chance of death. 

Prescription rates for hydroxychloroquine have now fallen to pre-coronavirus levels as interest in the drug as a COVID-19 treatment comes to a sudden halt. But for now, it’s unclear how or if the industry will now untangle itself these investments.