Physicians Face Regulatory Exposure for Prescribing COVID-19 Drugs Cited by President Trump

April 9, 2020Legal Alerts

Physicians Face Regulatory Exposure for Prescribing COVID-19 Drugs Cited by President Trump

Physicians and medical professionals throughout the world are facing and attempting to treat one of the most serious and deadly viruses that has affected the world in our lifetime. Medical professionals are on the front lines and in a position, despite their best efforts to protect themselves, to contract the disease. Medical professionals do not only fear for their own lives but also for the lives of their family members if they unintentionally bring this disease home.

In light of safety concerns for their family members, over the past few weeks, there have been reports claiming physicians throughout Ohio have prescribed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, frequently cited by President Donald Trump, to family members and friends. In some reported instances, prescriptions were issued even when such individuals did not exhibit signs or symptoms of the coronavirus.

In order to preserve the stockpile of medications for patients, on March 22, 2020, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued an emergency rule (OAC 4729-5-30.2) that prohibits a pharmacist from filling prescriptions for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine without a valid COVID-19 diagnosis and positive test result.

On March 30, 2020, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office issued the following statement, which highlighted the Pharmacy Board’s new emergency rule and advised physicians to self-report to the State Medical Board of Ohio if they prescribed these medications improperly:

It has come to my attention that physicians may be abusing their privilege to prescribe medications by writing prescriptions for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for themselves, their friends and their families without any legitimate medical need for the medication. As Attorney General, I am very concerned with these reports and will work vigorously with Ohio’s regulatory boards and agencies to address any illegal or prohibited conduct. I encourage anyone who has written a prescription of this type improperly to self-report to their respective regulatory authority.”

The State Medical Board of Ohio is also on record stating that it takes allegations of inappropriate prescribing very seriously, and that it will be actively investigating complaints as they come in and working with the Ohio Attorney General on any necessary enforcement actions for bad prescribing.[i]

In addition to state regulators, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio have set up a COVID-19 Task Force. One of its responsibilities is to investigate and criminally prosecute physicians who have egregiously prescribed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to themselves, family members, or friends without a legitimate medical purpose. The Task Force is comprised of representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, State Medical Board, and the Pharmacy Board.[ii]

Physicians who recently prescribed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and who are considering whether they should self-report to the Medical Board should first contact experienced legal counsel to determine the implications of a possible self-report, including the potentiality of license discipline and/or criminal charges. For further information, please contact one of the attorneys in Dinsmore’s Health Care practice group: Beth Collis ([email protected]); Eric Plinke ([email protected]); or Daniel Zinsmaster ([email protected]).