Pharmacists say antimalarial drug in high demand to treat coronavirus

Green's Pharmacy owner says chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine difficult to get
Hydrochloroquine bottle in high demand
Posted at 2:32 PM, Mar 25, 2020

PALM BEACH, Fla. — A drug used to treat malaria is in high demand right now. Pharmacists said doctors are prescribing it to treat symptoms of coronavirus.

The owner of Green's Pharmacy of Palm Beach said, right now, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are difficult to get. He has two bottles left, enough to fill four to five prescriptions.

Allen Rutman said the drug is in such high demand that his wholesaler is limiting how much of it they can order.

"Not even SARS was this bad," said Rutman of the unprecedented effects coronavirus is having.

Rutman places a small bottle of hydroxychloroquine on the counter and admits that, right now, it might as well be gold.

"We've had over 100 prescriptions electronically prescribed in the last, in one day," Rutman said.

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He's been getting calls from doctors to find out if he has the drug in stock. Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat malaria, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a study in China showed chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine as a recommended antiviral for treatment of COVID-19.

"We know it's for COVID-19. The question is if the people that they are prescribing it for have been actually infected or they are trying to get ahead of the curb," said Rutman, who has some concerns about people taking the drug as a prevention measure.

Rutman said the drug has side effects like any other. The CDC claims the most common are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and headache, but an overdose of it can be fatal. Rutman said his pharmacy in general is seeing an overwhelming number of prescriptions being ordered.

"Even third-parties have allowed us to do emergency refills, overrides so that people can have at least two to three months' supply if it became a major issue here," Rutman said.

Green's Pharmacy has been around for 80 years. Rutman assures his customers that the doors will be open. Executive orders have also caused the pharmacy's luncheonette to move to pick-up and delivery only.

"We'll even bring it out to the car or we'll deliver it to their house, which we've been,” Rutman said. "We deliver everything in the store any way."