SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's governor has ordered a review of the state's purchase of $800,000 worth of hyrdoxychloroquine, which he told reporters was made "unbeknownst to me."
The governor said the state would not be purchasing any more of the anti-malarial drug after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended against its use in treating COVID-19 patients. Speaking at his Friday briefing on the pandemic, the governor said his Office of Management and Budget made an initial agreement to spend $800,000 and Utah's Department of Health was negotiating for more.
"I have some questions about how it came about, the transparency of it," he said, announcing his legal counsel would begin a review.
The governor then halted any future purchases of the drug. The state has yet to take possession of what it did agree to purchase and might seek a refund.
"The bottom line is we're not purchasing any more of this drug," he said. "And the situation in its entirety is under review by our legal counsel to see what happened and how it happened and why it happened."
Gov. Herbert defended his team as acting in good faith, seeking a solution to the crisis Utah is in with the pandemic.
Utah's Department of Health had said it and members of the Utah State Legislature were negotiating to purchase 200,000 hydroxychloroquine treatment from Meds in Motion back in early March, using emergency procurement procedures.
Some members of the Utah State Legislature have defended purchasing the drug, arguing that it could be necessary and help people recover from COVID-19. Lawmakers appropriated as much as $8 million in Thursday's special session to purchase a stockpile of experimental medications. One lawmaker who opposed that appropriation, Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, said it was not a good use of taxpayer money to stockpile an unproven medication.
"I just hope that in the future we listen to medical experts and the recommendations about we actually need in this state to fight the pandemic and I hope that we will use taxpayer dollars in a way that actually helps people in the state of Utah," Rep. Harrison, who is also a physician, told FOX 13. "Many are hurting, many have lost jobs, many businesses are struggling. That’s where I’d like to see taxpayer dollars going and making sure that, if we’re spending money on medical issues that we put that money where medical experts say it’s really needed."