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N.H. DHHS Emergency Order Limits Prescriptions Of Certain Drugs, Including Hydroxychloroquine

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The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has issued an emergency order limiting the prescriptions of certain drugs due to COVID-19.

DHHS Chief Legal Counsel Melissa St. Cyr said the state is responding to reported shortages of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, as well as albuterol inhalers.

“We wanted to make sure that we could ration the use of that to ensure there was enough for people who are in need of the medication,” St. Cyr said.

St. Cyr did not have details on the extent of the reported shortages, but the emergency order cites “a statewide shortage and/or threatened shortage” of the medications. In some cases, she said, people who need the drugs were in some cases unable to access them because prescriptions were being issued on a preventative basis — not to those with documented symptoms — or for excessive periods of time.

The new order prohibits prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine — anti-malarial drugs often used by those with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory conditions — for the prevention of COVID-19.

New Hampshire’s new emergency order allows the drugs to be prescribed as a treatment to COVID-19 but stipulates that those prescriptions must come with supporting documentation, “including patients already established on these medications.”

The FDA has said hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can be used in some patients COVID-19, though it has not been formally approved to treat or prevent the virus. 

At this time there is limited evidence about whether it is effective.

The new emergency order also limits prescriptions of albuterol inhalers to “one inhaler with up to three refills for all new prescriptions to treat respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.” It also requires pharmacists to take steps to ensure patients are not “over-utilizing rescue inhalers.”

The order went into effect April 3 and remains in effect throughout the duration of the ongoing state of emergency declared by Gov. Chris Sununu, or until the order is revoked, “whichever shall happen first.”

St. Cyr said this is the only emergency order issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than the governor, since the COVID-19 outbreak emerged. Additional emergency rules published by boards overseeing pharmacists, physicians and other licensed medical professionals can be found on this newly launched COVID-19 landing page for the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification. 

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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