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U.S. Hospitals Panic-Buy Drugs Ahead of Coronavirus Influx

Published in: The Financial Times

Wholesale distributors have begun rationing the treatments after sales of chloroquine, an antimalarial that some hope will work against the virus, have spiked by 3,000 per cent so far this month, compared to the same period last year. Hospitals have also increased purchases of a related drug with fewer side effects, hydroxychloroquine, by 260 per cent, according to data from Premier, a group representing 4,000 US hospitals.

With no drug available to treat the coronavirus, hospitals are searching for signs in small studies of what might work, and stocking up. Chloroquine showed some promising results in studies in France and China, but it is nowhere near the normal standard of evidence required. President Trump announced this week that it had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat Covid-19 — but this turned out not to be true.

Soumi Saha, Premier’s senior director of advocacy, said the problem was that there is “no source of truth”. She said hospitals need treatment guidelines or protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or they will rush to buy every time small studies are released.

“We will be in a situation where we will continue to see panic buying any new information is released by other countries,” she said.

Hospitals are also rushing to buy more inhalers — such as those used by asthmatics — with orders up 112 per cent year-on-year. Drugmakers GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim are now rationing inhalers, according to Premier.

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