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NJ issues restrictions to prevent drugs shortages of potential coronavirus treatments

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal directed the Division of Consumer Affairs to issue an Administrative Order which states prescriptions will only be filled with a proper diagnosis or diagnostic code and support from a patient's medical records. – Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs issued an Administrative Order yesterday, restricting the prescription and dispense disbursement of medications that may be a potential treatment for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to a press release. This was done to address concerns for a possible shortage of these medications.

These medications include hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which are used to treat malaria and chronic inflammatory conditions such as lupus, according to the release. Pharmacy associations throughout the country have reported concerns about these drugs being hoarded by individuals without an immediate need for them, including doctors and dentists who have written prescriptions for either themselves or their family members.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency, and we are all in it together,” Grewal said, according to the release. “Stockpiling and hoarding drugs and inappropriate prescribing for friends and family is unacceptable. The action we are taking today protects the drug supply so that medications are available when necessary for those who need them most.”

This order is effective immediately and until further notice, according to the release. It states that a prescription for any drug in short supply due to its potential treatment of COVID-19 will require a diagnosis or diagnostic code, and the need should also be supported in the patient’s record. All prescriptions that do not follow these criteria will not be filled by pharmacists.

Prescribers, such as doctors or dentists, may not prescribe their families or friends or hold large quantities of these drugs in their offices, according to the release. Prescriptions should also only be written within their scope of practice. Dentists and veterinarians, among other professions, should not write prescriptions designating the use of a drug to treat COVID-19.

Prescriptions for medications such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine will only be filled as a COVID-19 treatment if a patient has received a positive test result, according to the article. This must be documented on the prescription and the patient will be limited to a 14-day supply with no additional refills.

The restrictions are not applicable to medication orders for inpatient hospital use or for their use in federal or state clinical trials, according to the release. This also does not apply to those with pre-existing conditions who need maintenance prescriptions.

When filling prescriptions, pharmacists are encouraged to use their judgment in regards to drugs that may soon be in short supply, according to the release.

“Medical professionals have a duty to make conscientious prescribing and dispensing decisions that ensure every patient is able to obtain their medication. This includes only issuing prescriptions necessary for the treatment of patients and in reasonable quantities to ensure continuity of care for all who rely on them,” said Paul R. Rodriguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, according to the release. “It is imperative that those rules are not violated, especially during a public health emergency.”

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