SALT LAKE CITY — State health officials are in the process of buying a mass of anti-malarial drugs to treat up to 200,000 of Utah’s COVID-19 patients, despite objections from medical experts.
The plan is to distribute the drugs to local pharmacies across the state so the treatment will be available “free of charge to patients, provided the patient has a prescription from a licensed physician certifying they have an active case of COVID-19,” Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Health, said in an email Tuesday.
Democrats argued there is “absolutely no need for us to spend money on this drug now,” noting pharmacists have reported no shortages for patients who need the medicine.
“We agree that some people should have access to experimental drugs when no other options exist,” the Democrats’ statement said. “However, using millions of dollars of taxpayer money to purchase a drug that has not been proven to help COVID-19 sufferers seems designed to make money, not to heal.”
Lauren Simpson, policy director of the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, also criticized the move, arguing it will benefit the Utah pharmacist.
“Aided by Senate President Adams, public funds will pay for a private gamble by Meds in Motion that could result in putting some Utahns’ health at risk,” Simpson said. “Medical professionals have expressed serious reservations with unsupervised, off-label use of anti-malarial drugs, and yet lawmakers are playing politics and bankrolling one individual’s speculative business decision at the risk of Utahns.”
Simpson called it a “closed-door sweetheart deal.”