With scientists hard at work finding medicines that can fight the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 respiratory illness, there has been a flurry of speculation around whether existing products can effectively combat this new infection. There is distinct danger associated with trying unproven cures, however, and people who end up using these supposed remedies could cause serious health issues for themselves and others.
One particular medication, hydroxychloroquine, has received a great deal of medical attention because it has been touted in the U.S. as a potential answer to COVID-19. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's positive stance on trying this drug is in sharp contrast to that of the Therapeutic Goods Administration. According to NPS Medicinewise, the TGA "strongly discourages" the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of its current applications, due to the risk of side effects coupled with the uncertain positive impact of the medicine on coronavirus patients.
The TGA's statement points out that people around the world have begun seeking out hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus prevention or relief. The real impact of this may be on stockpiles of the medication, which could decline to the point where people who need the drug for their preexisting health conditions will not have easy access to it. It is presently used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and was previously used as an anti-malaria medicine.
According to NPS Medicinewise, people are being prescribed hydroxychloroquine in Australia for off-label purposes. This could be a major risk factor, as people taking the medicine improperly are at high risk of negative effects. NPS Medicinewise reported that there have been some changes to the status of the drug to make sure these unapproved prescriptions don't go ahead, and the patients who need the medicine for its intended purpose can still get it. On 1 May 2020, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing for hydroxychloroquine will split into initial and continuing use, and prescriptions of both types will be given Authority Required status.
What happens if a patient is prescribed a drug that is not proven to assist with their condition and it causes severe negative effects? This could be an issue of medical negligence. The coronavirus pandemic is a truly unprecedented time, and may bring with it a wave of similar cases. Responding to the crisis through improper medication use is a real risk factor, one potentially being exacerbated by announcements coming from the U.S.
If you or a family member has been harmed by an improperly prescribed medication, contact the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners and find out what your options are for filing a claim.