Changes in prescribing Hydroxychloroquine due to COVID-19

30 April 2020

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat conditions (including malaria and rheumatoid arthritis) and may potentially be used to treat COVID-19. To avoid shortage concerns in Australia, the Department of Health made the Poisons Standard Amendment (Hydroxychloroquine and Salbutamol) Instrument 2020 (the Instrument), which restricts the medical practitioners who are authorised to prescribe Hydroxychloroquine to new patients.

The Instrument came into effect on 24 March 2020 and authorises only medical practitioners recognised by the Medical Board of Australia as specialists in dermatology, intensive care medicine, paediatrics, child health, emergency medicine or a physician to prescribe Hydroxychloroquine to new patients as part of their initial treatment plans. Following the initial authorisations by the recognised specialists, patients can then attend upon their general practitioners for ongoing prescription of Hydroxychloroquine or medicines containing the substance.

Such steps have been taken due to reported unprecedented demands for Hydroxychloroquine at Australian pharmacies as doctors and dentists have been prescribing Hydroxychloroquine to other practitioners, their families and the community in bulk amounts.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has advised pharmacists to only dispense Hydroxychloroquine if there is a genuine need for the substance, being the treatment of an inflammatory condition, malaria or other conditions for which the substance is approved.

It is important that all health practitioners follow the Instrument to ensure:

  • Hydroxychloroquine (or medicines containing this substance) are available to patients in need
  • Hydroxychloroquine is used and managed appropriately
  • they avoid the risk of any potential regulatory or disciplinary investigations and/or action.

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