“One of the No. 1 questions we’ve been getting in the state of Florida is what treatments are available,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Tuesday. “One of the things that physicians have been using is this hydroxychloroquine, usually combined with with Z-Pack.”
Doses of the drug were being shipped from India, which lifted its recent export ban after President Donald Trump spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
DeSantis, a Republican, said he spoke to Trump about obtaining the hydroxychloroquine, which was being produced in part by Teva Pharmaceuticals.
The company made one shipment but was having problems getting the rest of the doses out of India before Modi lifted the ban. Amneal Pharmaceuticals was also making shipments to Florida.
Only hospitalized patients can obtain the drug.
Hydroxychloroquine was being prescribed for off-label use by doctors in most states and the Food and Drug Administration last week authorized using the drug to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
DeSantis said he spoke with doctors who recommended the drug, including Dr. Sunil Kumar, a critical care and pulmonary physician at Broward Health.
Kumar told reporters that doctors have few options, leading them to use hydroxychloroquine with Z-Pack, an antibiotic.
The doctor said physicians are also using other strategies, including rotating patients to lie on their stomachs for part of the day.
“We need to have every option available for these patients,” he said.
DeSantis played a video testimonial from a patient who said his life was saved by doctors at Broward Health. It wasn’t clear if the man received hydroxychloroquine.
Multiple clinical trials exploring the drug’s efficacy and safety are underway around the world, including a 1,500-person trial at the University of Minnesota. Three early studies, two from France and one from China, indicate effectiveness but have been called inadequate by some in the medical community.
Some medical experts have touted the drug’s supposed effectiveness while others say further study is needed while criticizing people prescribing and taking the medicine.
Kumar cautioned against assuming hydroxychloroquine is effective and said study results would prove its efficacy one way or another.