The Federal Government has rushed through an emergency regulation banning dentists from prescribing an arthritis drug being touted as a potential COVID-19 treatment, after reports some were prescribing it in bulk to themselves and their families.
That has led to shortages for patients who really need the drug.
In response, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has urged its members to refuse to dispense the medication unless it is being used to treat arthritis or malaria.
The drug, hydroxychloroquine, is an old anti-malarial now used to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
There is no good evidence it works against COVID-19. But small, low-quality studies have raised hopes the drug may be effective—leading US President Donald Trump to tweet about the drug’s potential, which in turn has caused worldwide shortages.
The regulation, introduced on Monday, restricts prescribing of the drug to doctors, dermatologists and other specialists. Dentists and nurse practitioners are banned from prescribing it, while GPs are restricted to only continuing a prescription—they will not be allowed to write new prescriptions.
Australian Dental Association president Dr Carmelo Bonanno backed the government’s move, and reminded members that the Australian Dental Board could take action against dentists caught prescribing the drug.
This article is a shortened version of one that appeared on the SMH website yesterday.