COLUMBUS, Ohio — In good news for patients with lupus, arthritis and malaria, the Ohio Department of Health is looking to get rid of some hydroxychloroquine pills — 4,014,400, to be exact.
Earlier on in the pandemic, when hydroxychloroquine was thought to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients and even used by President Donald Trump as a coronavirus prevention, Ohio and other states sought large quantities of the drug, which created a squeeze on the supply for people who need the medicine, some daily, to ease symptoms of other diseases.
Ohio bought 2,014,400 pills for $602,629 on April 9, said Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato.
On April 20, another 2 million were donated to the state by Capital Wholesale Drug in Columbus via Prasco, a generic drugmaker in the Cincinnati area. The existence of the stockpile was first reported by the Columbus Dispatch.
World Health Organization and United Kingdom scientists ended trials of hydroxychloroquine, after data showed it gave patients no benefits.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday recommended against hydroxychloroquine, saying the side effects — which can include heart problems — outweigh any potential benefits.
“The shelf life is between 18-24 months,” Amato said in an email.
State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy spokesman Cameron McNamee said that since the health department is a licensed wholesaler, it could sell and distribute the stockpile like any other wholesaler.
But first, health department officials hope to return the purchased pills.
“It’s called a reverse invoice and we are working with the state board of pharmacy on wholesaler rules to see if this is possible,” Amato said. “If that won’t work, our ODH warehouse is a wholesaler so we can look to sell the pills to pharmacies that need them.”
For the 2 million donated pills, the health department is looking at donating them to foundations that could use them, she said.