pharmacies

health

Trump bypassed state officials to distribute hydroxychloroquine to pharmacies

Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro wanted to make sure the administration’s top vaccine expert would be on board with a White House plan to distribute the unproven drug to hard-hit cities.

“The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘I want to know what team you are on,’ ” recalled Rick Bright, who at the time was responsible for stockpiling drugs for medical emergencies as director of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

The immunologist, who later filed a whistleblower complaint against the administration, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he told Navarro he was on the side of medical evidence. Navarro, Bright said, replied, “I won’t hold it against you, but we need to move this forward.” Navarro declined to comment on Bright’s account.

The White House decision to set aside the mandatory safety controls put in place by the Food and Drug Administration fueled one of the most disputed initiatives in the administration’s response to the pandemic: the distribution of millions of ineffective, potentially dangerous pills from a federally controlled cache of drugs called the Strategic National Stockpile.

Over a span of four days in early April, the White House ordered the distribution of 23 million hydroxychloroquine tablets from the stockpile to a dozen states, enough pills for 1.4 million covid-19 patients, according to public records obtained by The Post in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Post review found that the process was marked by haphazard planning, little or no communication to local authorities about the flow of pills into their communities, and a lack of public accounting about where they ended up.

The documents also demonstrate the steps the administration took to bypass the FDA’s March 28 authorization for emergency use of the tablets, which limited their use to hospitals and clinical drug trials. According to FDA guidance at the time, state authorities were supposed to request stockpile supplies before they were delivered. But interviews and documents show that procedure was not followed in many cases.

The White House ordered more than a third of the tablets sent to the three major drug distributors in the United States with instructions to deliver them not only to hospitals but also retail pharmacies in five U.S. cities, despite the FDA controls, according to public records.

“At the direction of the White House, SNS did a one-time shipment of hydroxychloroquine to several commercial distributors to support further distribution of hydroxychloroquine directly to hospitals and retail pharmacies in the hard hit areas of NYC, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans,” a senior analyst at HHS said in an internal email exchange.

One major wholesaler said it shipped to long-term care facilities, which also were not covered in the FDA’s emergency authorization. All three distributors told The Post they did not ship to retail pharmacies, despite the administration’s request.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the stockpile, confirmed in an email to The Post that the pills were supposed to go

Read More
health

U.S. pharmacies attract new flu shot customers as coronavirus surges

By Caroline Humer

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart Inc, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp have told Reuters demand for flu shots at their U.S. pharmacies is up sharply – in some cases double from last year – as people try to protect themselves from influenza in the midst of a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.The pharmacies are giving millions more flu shots than they have in past years, filling a gap from COVID-19 wary consumers who are avoiding the doctor’s office. The gains represent millions of dollars in potential profit.

U.S. public health officials have been urging Americans for months to inoculate themselves against the flu, which kills about 60,000 people a year, warning of a potential “twindemic” of influenza and the novel coronavirus that could overwhelm hospitals this winter.

More Americans are choosing to get vaccinated at local pharmacies than in the past, partly due to cancellation of annual “flu shot clinics” in workplaces that remain shut by the pandemic. Walmart <WMT.N> reported increased demand from entire families seeking shots.

“Right out of the gate, we saw much more volume than last August,” Rite Aid Chief Pharmacy Officer Jocelyn Konrad said.

She said the company has been able to keep up with the high demand and has not seen any vaccine shortages.

The shift to pharmacies is a potential boost to the country’s biggest chains that may not yet be factored into many Wall Street earnings estimates.

Cowen & Co said in a research note that the flu demand will increase profit at CVS <CVS.N>, forecasting that it would beat Wall Street estimates when the company reports quarterly earnings on Nov. 6.

Rite Aid <RAD.N> flagged a 40% jump in demand and said last month that increased immunizations will help third-quarter retail profit. Fears of coronavirus infection has led to a decrease in U.S. doctor visits, a decline in new prescriptions and a drop in pharmacy retail sales.

Flu shots are typically covered by commercial insurance and government health plans, or can cost about $40 out of pocket at a pharmacy.

Pharmacies make a gross profit of about $15 per shot, according to healthcare services analyst Brian Tanquilut at Jefferies LLC. In addition, the extra trip to the store may entice customers to purchase other items.

Pharmacies began laying the groundwork for increased flu shot demand early this year, anticipating that a potential second wave of coronavirus cases would push more customers their way. An early Reuters poll showed that 60% of Americans planned to get the flu shot in the fall, up from a more typical 50%. A CVS survey found more people saying they would get the shot at a pharmacy.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc <GSK.L>, Sanofi SA <SASY.PA>, and CSL Ltd’s <CSL.AX> Seqirus, which manufacture flu shots used in the United States, increased production by between 10% and 20% this year for a total of about 190 million shots.

DOUBLING OF DEMAND

The rise in flu shots at pharmacies coincides with an

Read More