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County reverses decision to file amicus brief regarding hydroxychloroquine ban

By Carla O'Day

Washoe County commissioners on Thursday rescinded a decision made last month that would ask the District Attorney to file a legal brief challenging a state decision that banned the use of certain drugs to treat COVID-19 patients outside a hospital setting.  

Support was withdrawn based on new developments and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, county commissioners said.  

Commissioners decided April 21 to file an amicus brief supporting a challenge by the Nevada Osteopathic Medical Association to the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy’s emergency regulation banning the use of choloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat non-hospitalized coronavirus patients. An amicus brief is a document by a non-party to a lawsuit that is intended to outline legal arguments for the benefit of the court.

Hydroxychloroquine, also known as Plaquenil, and chloroquine, are antimalarial drugs that have been used for years to treat patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions. The pharmacy board in March requested Gov. Steve Sisolak approve an emergency regulation banning the use of these drugs outside hospital settings for COVID-19 patients because of supply shortages.

According to a statement issued April 24 by the U.S Food & Drug Administration, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.” The FDA also stated such drugs should only be used when patients can be appropriately monitored in the hospital or are enrolled in a clinical trial with appropriate screening and monitoring.

Commission Chairman Bob Lucey said the initial decision to support the osteopathic medical association was to protect the doctor-patient relationship and to allow physicians the opportunity to treat patients in the way they see fit. He said the decision wasn’t political.

“Things have changed dramatically in the past couple of weeks, and after discussion with legal and medical professionals, as other treatments become available, I believe it is prudent we reconsider moving forward,” Lucey said.

Lucey also said the COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly with new information constantly being made public. For example, remdesivir, an antiviral intravenous drug to treat patients has proven effective in helping patients recover from coronavirus quicker.

Commissioner Kitty Jung said the county needs to set policy that would dictate when, if ever, amicus briefs are to be filed on any issue.

“This has to come back to the agenda sooner rather than later,” Jung said. “That can guide all of us when people light us up and we get passionate about something.”

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