Australia’s drug regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat COVID-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members, despite potentially deadly side effects.
The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity — including from US President Donald Trump — about the potential of the drug to treat COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity.
Some Australian media outlets have wrongly reported the drug as a “cure” for the virus, even though trials have been either inconclusive or too small to be useful, have only been conducted in test tubes, are not yet complete, or have not even received ethics approval.
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration said that it was concerned about shortages of the drug for people who need it following increased off-label prescribing as a result of the COVID-19 reports.
As well as heart attacks, the drug can lead to irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma, the drug regulator said.
Trump touted hydroxychloroquine as possibly “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” and said that “it’s not going to kill anybody.”
Soon after, a US man died after he drank chloroquine found in fish tank cleaner, because he was scared of getting sick. Other countries have also reported poisonings.
The drug regulator has placed tight new restrictions on doctors who are authorized to write prescriptions for the drug, limiting it to a small group of clinical specialties.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia wrote to members urging them to “refuse the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine if there is not a genuine need.”
The letter said that the society was receiving reports from pharmacists that “they are receiving prescriptions from doctors prescribing for other doctors and their families, as well as dentists prescribing to the community and their families.”
Substitute pharmacist Daniel Roitman, who has been working at pharmacies in and around Melbourne, said that he has seen general practitioners prescribing the drug to themselves and their family members, which is illegal in Victoria.
He said that he also saw people attempting to collect multiple repeats of the drug from different pharmacies in the same day.
“I had a GP [general practitioner] on Monday morning come in and he had written a script for hydroxychloroquine for his wife,” Roitman said. “I had to tell him off in no uncertain terms. I’ve also seen spikes in prescriptions of antibiotics also being used in clinical trials.”
Roitman urged people to think twice before attempting to get hold of the drug.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big