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Watchdog group files price gouging complaint about Utah's purchase of unproven COVID-19 treatment

File - Hydroxychloroquine pills.
Posted at 10:48 AM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 12:48:40-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Alliance for a Better Utah has filed a complaint with the Utah Department of Consumer Protection regarding the state's recent purchase of $800,000 in antimalarial drugs intended, but unproven, for the treatment of COVID-19.

According to a recent report by The Salt Lake Tribune, the State of Utah committed to spending $800,000 on 20,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, payable to a Utah pharmacy chain called Meds in Motion.

“The people of Utah deserve to have this matter investigated,” said Chase Thomas, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah. “As if price gouging wasn’t bad enough, price gouging of an unproven drug during a pandemic in a transaction that uses public funds is truly beyond the pale. The public trust is at stake here, and Meds in Motion and Dan Richards must be held accountable if they are found to have used this crisis to pad their pockets.”

Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke investigated the sale and concluded that the state grossly overpaid for the treatments. One pharmacist told Gehrke that each seven-pill course of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should cost $6 each, not the $40 that the State of Utah agreed to pay - an inflation rate of more than 600 percent.

On April 24, Governor Gary 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.

Alliance for a Better Utah is calling for an investigation into the matter, which it called "exploitative and unethical."