(JTA) — The state of Florida has not distributed most of the 1 million doses of the drug hydroxychloroquine, often used as a drug of last resort to help patients with COVID-19, which were provided free from the Israeli drug maker Teva Pharmaceuticals.
The drug arrived in Florida in two shipments in April in a deal that Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said was facilitated by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Politico reported.
Only a handful of hospitals have requested access to the hydroxychloroquine stockpile, according to the report.
About 20,000 doses of the drug have been distributed to the hospitals, and the state is sitting on the 980,000 others, while patients with lupus, who rely on hydroxychloroquine to stave off organ damage, pain and disability, are having trouble finding the drug and in some cases are being forced to pay triple or to substitute the more expansive brand-name version, Plaquenil, the Fort Myers News-Press reported Saturday.
President Donald Trump has publicly called hydroxychloroquine a “game changer” in reducing the effects of the coronavirus and promoted it in his daily briefings and on Twitter. His recent medical report made public by the White House showed that the president had been taking the drug prophylactically.
Trump had to get involved in order for Florida to receive the drug since Teva manufactures the drug in India, where officials did not allow shipment to leave the country. DeSantis asked Trump to speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who agreed to make the exception for the United States, DeSantis told a news conference in April, according to Politico.