Economy|Coronavirus pandemic
Oklahoma tries to return $2m worth of hydroxychloroquine
The anti-malaria drug was once touted by former US President Donald Trump as an effective treatment for COVID-19. Now Oklahoma is trying to return $2m worth of it.
Hydroxychloroquine has been shown to have little or no effect on severe cases of COVID-19, and a former state health official chalked up Oklahoma’s purchase to something that happens in 'the fog of war' [File: George Frey/Reuters]
27 Jan 2021
The Oklahoma attorney general’s office is attempting to return $2m worth of a malaria drug once touted by former United States President Donald Trump as an effective treatment for COVID-19, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Alex Gerszewski, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Hunter, said Hunter is attempting to negotiate a return of the 1.2 million hydroxychloroquine pills Oklahoma acquired in April from a California-based supplier, FFF Enterprises. He said the office was acting on a request from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which authorised the purchase.
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A spokeswoman for FFF Enterprises didn’t immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment.
The attempt by Oklahoma to return the hydroxychloroquine was first reported by the online news publication The Frontier.
Republican Governor Kevin Stitt defended the purchase last year, saying the drug was showing some promise as a treatment in early March and he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to acquire it.
“I was being proactive to try and protect Oklahomans,” Stitt said at the time.
The drug has since been shown to have little or no effect on severe cases of COVID-19, and a former state health official chalked up Oklahoma’s purchase to something that happens in “the fog of war”.
While governments in at least 20 other states obtained more than 30 million doses of the drug through donations from the federal reserve or private companies, Oklahoma and Utah bought them from private pharmaceutical companies.
Then-Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, initially defended the state’s $800,000 purchase of 20,000 packets of hydroxychloroquine compounded with zinc, but later cancelled an additional plan to spend $8m more to buy 200,000 more treatments. The state then managed to secure a refund on the $800,000 no-bid contract it signed with a local pharmacy company that had been promoting the drugs.
The CEO of the pharmacy company has since pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for mislabelling the drug imported from China. Dan Richards, the operator of Meds In Motion, acknowledged receiving large amounts of the drug that were from an unregistered manufacturer in China and that were incorrectly labelled as an herbal supplement.
His lawyer has said he was trying to help procure as much of the product as possible because at the time it seemed like a promising treatment for the coronavirus.
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