CVS limits sale of possible coronavirus-fighting drugs

A message is seen on the doors of a CVS pharmacy announces that the store is out of hand sanitizer and gloves in Washington, DC on March 17, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

As researchers hunt for a coronavirus drug, CVS is locking up what it already has.

The brand announced Wednesday that pharmacy CVS Caremark is implementing new measures to balance the spiking demand for off-label use of certain medicines to treat COVID-19 with the needs of patients who use them for chronic conditions.

They don't want people with different conditions to be left without an answer.

Hydroxychloroquine is one drug being limited. It was thrust into the public eye when the Trump administration approved it for testing, along with malaria drug chloroquine. New York State began trials Tuesday on the treatment of COVID-19 using the two drugs, which the president called “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.”

Azithromycin, a protease inhibitor and albuterol inhalers, are also being rationed by CVS.

“Our goal is to limit stockpiling of medication that could result in future shortages and gaps in care,” a company spokesperson told FOX Business.

And to that end, pharmacies in certain states “are following dispensing guidelines regarding the use of these medications,” that person added. In states with no guidelines, they said, CVS pharmacies are limiting the dispensing of the drugs for COVID-19 treatment to a 10-day supply with no refills.

There is optimism hydroxychloroquine could be used as a treatment for the deadly virus. In a clinical trial of 36 patients in France, six patients who were given the drugs were able to recover from COVID-19. And in India, the world’s second-largest country, officials have banned the export of the medicine in anticipation of a possible shortage.

Not everyone is convinced it can be used as an effective treatment, though. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, signed an emergency order that prohibits prescribing and dispensing it for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, CVS said it’s continuing to monitor the global manufacturing environment and does not foresee major disruptions to its supply chain as a result of the virus-related pandemic.

“We have not experienced any significant out-of-stock or difficulty securing important medications,” for people with chronic disease, CVS Health Chief Executive Officer Larry Merlo told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday. “People are getting their prescriptions refilled in a timely manner.”

Since the first reports of COVID-19 in December, the virus has infected more than 606,000 people in the United States, according to the World Health Organization, resulting in about 800 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged social distancing by staying at home and keeping at least six feet away from others in public, and in its March 15 guidance, it advised against gatherings of 50 people or more for eight weeks.


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