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Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions Surge in U.S. During Pandemic

Increase in hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine fills seen during week of March 15 to 21, 2020

prescription bottle

TUESDAY, June 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A surge in prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online May 28 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Muthiah Vaduganathan, M.D., M.P.H., from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined trends in mean weekly prescriptions dispensed between Feb. 16 and April 25, 2020, of hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine, azithromycin, and the top 10 drugs based on total claims in 2019 compared with mean weekly prescriptions dispensed from Feb. 17 to April 27, 2019.

The researchers found that for all drugs except amoxicillin and hydrocodone-acetaminophen, fills peaked during the week of March 15 to 21, 2020, followed by subsequent decline. Hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine fills increased during this week from 2,208 in 2019 to 45,858 prescriptions for fills of fewer than 28 tablets in 2020; 70,472 to 196,606 prescriptions for fills of 28 to 60 tablets; and 44,245 to 124,833 prescriptions for fills of more than 60 tablets (+1,977.0, +179.0, and +182.1 percent, respectively). These increases remained sustained for fills of fewer than 28 tablets and for fills of 28 to 60 tablets (+848.4 and +53.3 percent, respectively) at study end; fills for more than 60 tablets were below 2019 levels (−64.0 percent). Compared with 2019, in 2020, there were 483,425 excess fills of hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine during the 10-week period.

"One positive finding is that we didn't see a stark reduction in prescription fills for routine, chronic care, but our findings for hydroxychloroquine are concerning," a coauthor said in a statement.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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