Governor’s office: $800K for state’s controversial malaria drug purchase refunded by Meds in Motion

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. File photo: News conference screen shot

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 29, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A statement released Wednesday evening by the office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert says Meds in Motion has refunded the $800,000 state officials spend to purchase 200,000 doses of a malaria drug that a recent scientific study has discredited as an effective treatment for COVID-19.

The unsigned statement comes after a “thorough internal review of a March 31, 2020 purchase of compounded chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine from the Utah compounding pharmacy Meds in Motion,” says the statement, which still defends the purchase.

“We have determined that all involved acted proactively, preemptively and prudently during an emergency in an effort to save lives,” the statement says. “Although there were breakdowns in communication between state agencies, all involved acted in good faith.”

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 statement says.

“In light of these circumstances, we are grateful that the vendor, Meds in Motion, accepted our request to refund the $800,000 expended by the state. These funds were received by the state earlier this 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.”

In the absence of a vaccine, “Utah leaders were actively seeking out effective treatments that could reduce the duration and severity of the virus and thereby protect precious hospital resources from being overwhelmed,” the Governor’s Office statement says.

“In this fast-changing environment, there were promising reports about the role of antiviral medications in treating COVID-19 symptoms. Although reports of efficacy were mixed, top medical specialists in the state — before this issue became politicized — urged state officials to look seriously at chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as effective treatment options.”

State officials, including the Utah Department of Health, began working with a local Utah pharmacy, Meds in Motion, that could custom compound chloroquine-hydroxychloroquine treatments in quantities sufficient to meet anticipated need, the statement says.

“As global interest in chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine subsequently spiked and supply chains frayed because of speculation, state officials authorized the purchase in question which was executed by our Division of State Purchasing and General Services at a fair price.”

A complaint filed Tuesday by Alliance for a Better Utah alleges that the price charged by Meds in Motion amounted to price gouging, and the price of the drug was 600% of what it should have been. Read that story here.

“Through our review, we also have a clearer sense of the unprecedented challenges facing our Division of State Purchasing and General Services (State Purchasing),” the governor’s office statement says.

“As global supply chains have fractured, State Purchasing implemented emergency procurement protocols to procure personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies and other needed items to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Under both the governor’s and the president’s emergency declarations, the normal bid process is not required for purchases needed to address the pandemic. Nonetheless, State Purchasing is required to exercise caution and afterwards justify their actions.”

The statement also notes other pandemic-related purchases.

“Since March 24, 2020, State Purchasing has issued over 300 Purchase Orders under this protocol for about $70,000,000 in supplies. Some of those orders have been subsequently canceled as a result of product failure, failure to deliver, or the State determining products were no longer needed. Our review shows a State Purchasing system that is to be commended for adapting rapidly to crisis conditions and exercising judgment in balancing expediency, cost and quality.”

A final statement in the news release seemed to ask Utahns to cut all involved in the $800,000 purchase some slack.

“It is easy to sensationalize and second guess decisions made on the field of battle. There is little here to second guess, and the governor is grateful to public and private sector partners, including Meds in Motion, who have acted with dispatch in a good faith effort to save lives.”

4.29.2020 Governor’s Office Statement on Internal Review of Compounded Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine Purchase


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