COVID-19: Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine

31 Mar 2020

In recent days, many pharmacies have received requests for over-the-counter (OTC) sales of chloroquine for preventing or treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. We have also been made aware that doctors and other prescribers are prescribing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for personal use or for friends/family with the intention of preventing or treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Key points:

·     The MHRA has issued guidance that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not licensed to treat coronavirus (COVID-19)-related symptoms or prevent infection.

o     Clinical trials are ongoing to test whether chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat or prevent coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. These clinical trials are still ongoing; they are not completed – no conclusions have been reached yet on the safety and effectiveness of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

o     Until clear, definitive evidence is available that these potential treatments are safe and effective for the treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, they are meant to be used only for this purpose within a clinical trial.

·     There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Any treatment provided for ill patients in hospitals aims to relieve the symptoms while the body fights the infection.

·     It is vitally important that everyone follow the Government advice on self-isolation, social distancing and shielding as preventive measures.

 

Professional indemnity

NPA Professional Indemnity insurance will not cover:

·     OTC sales or supplies of chloroquine intended to be used for prevention/treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

·     Dispensing of prescriptions for supply of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine prescribed for prevention/treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

If the UK Government/NHS advice on the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for prevention/treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection changes, we will issue updated advice.

 

NPA advice

Pharmacists and pharmacy teams are strongly advised:

    Not to sell/supply any chloroquine OTC for preventing/treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Be cautious of any requests for OTC chloroquine; in the current pandemic situation, it is unlikely that OTC requests for chloroquine will be for malaria prophylaxis/travel purposes.

–    Not to sell/supply chloroquine OTC to themselves for personal use or for friends or family for preventing/treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

–    Not to prescribe chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine (if you are an independent pharmacist prescriber) for your personal use, or for friends or family for preventing/treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

   Not to dispense prescriptions for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine intended for preventing/treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. This also applies to circumstances when the prescriber has prescribed these drugs for personal use, or for friends or family for preventing/treating coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Patients or prescribers requesting supply of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine (OTC or against a prescription) should be advised as per the MHRA and Government advice on current preventive measures. The following links provide useful information and patients and prescribers can be signposted to them for the latest information and updates:

·     MHRA: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chloroquine-and-hydroxychloroquine-not-licensed-for-coronavirus-covid-19-treatment

·     GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

·     NHS.UK: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

For further information please contact the NPA Pharmacy Services team on 01727 891800 or email at:  pharmacyservices@npa.co.uk.