PBMs Try to Stem Stockpiling of Trump-Touted Malaria Drugs

With the death toll from COVID-19 now surpassing 14,000 in the U.S., President Donald Trump and some of his advisers have repeatedly touted the promise of certain anti-malarial drugs to combat the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That enthusiasm has sparked increasing concern that the surge in demand for such drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, is imperiling access for patients who take them to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. To help alleviate the issue, some major PBMs tell AIS Health that they’re placing utilization management controls on off-label use of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine and other drugs with the potential to treat COVID-19.

OptumRx, one of the country’s largest PBMs and part of UnitedHealth Group, as of March 31 is limiting prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to 30 tablets within a 90-day time period, “with an automatic bypass for members utilizing for chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus,” Chief Medical Officer Sumit Dutta, M.D., says in comments emailed to AIS Health. Members who are newly starting on hydroxychloroquine for rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus will be able to request quantities beyond 30 tablets.

© 2024 MMIT
Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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