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Utah refunded $800K after purchase of unproven COVID-19 treatment

File - Hydroxychloroquine pills.
Posted at 5:31 PM, Apr 29, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — A local pharmacy chain has refunded the State of Utah $800,000 for thousands of pills intended for treating COVID-19.

On March 31, the state purchased 20,000 courses of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine - commonly used in the treatment of malaria, but unproven in treating COVID-19 - from Meds in Motion.

"We have determined that all involved acted proactively, preemptively and prudently during an emergency in an effort to save lives. Although there were breakdowns in communication between state agencies, all involved acted in good faith," a statement from Governor Gary Herbert's Office said. "In the weeks since the purchase, and prior to taking possession of the medication, the State of Utah has determined that a state supply of chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine is no longer prudent."

The state received its refund from Meds in Motion on Wednesday afternoon.

"We understand that Meds in Motion now intends to donate this medication to charities that can use it immediately to address a worldwide shortage of anti-malarial medications in developing countries," the statement said.

On April 24, Governor Herbert announced the state will abandon its plans to purchase more antimalarial drugs and suggested the state should be refunded for the 20,000 courses already purchased, a news release from Alliance for a Better Utah said.

Earlier this week, Alliance for a Better Utah filed a price gouging complaint about the purchase with the Utah Department of Consumer Protection. By one estimate given to Robert Gehrke of The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah paid Meds in Motion more than six times the drugs' value.