Twenty patients who have tested positive with coronavirus have secured prescriptions from their personal doctors and started receiving chloroquine and azithromycin through the general health system, a Health Insurance Organisation official told Phileleftheros.
Gnosia Achniotou said the procedure has started from Wednesday with the doctor issuing the prescription online.
The doctor first contacts the HIO which confirms it is a Covid-19 case and contact is made with the volunteers who deliver the medicine to the patients’ homes as those who have tested positive must remain in self isolation.
Asked about reports that a patient had actually gone looking for chloroquine on his own, she said that the HIO had received a complaint from a pharmacy that a patient examined by a doctor not part of the GHS had taken the prescription and gone there on his own.
She added that pharmacies have also reported that members of the public have been asking for the drug ever since a study indicated it may help treat Covid-19.
The HIO moved to remove it from the list allowing it to be used only for rheumatoid patients until the restrictions came into force requiring the prescription from a GHS doctor and the approval of authorities.
In an announcement on Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency said chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should only be used in clinical trials or emergency use programmes.
Both can have serious side effects, especially at high doses or when combined with other medicines, it said.
They must not be used without a prescription and without supervision by a doctor; prescriptions should not be given outside their authorised uses except in the setting of a clinical trial or nationally agreed protocols.
Large clinical trials are under way to generate the robust data needed to establish the efficacy and safety of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19. EMA welcomes these trials, which will enable authorities to give reliable advice based on solid evidence to healthcare professionals and patients.
Considering the urgency and the pressure healthcare systems face to save lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, some countries, including the USA and France, have put strict protocols in place to allow the experimental use of these two medicines, for example, in patients with severe forms of Covid-19.
Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are vital medicines for patients with autoimmune conditions such as lupus.
It is important that such patients are still able to obtain them and do not face shortages caused by stockpiling or use outside the authorised indications. In some countries, prescribing of the medicines has been restricted to reduce the risk of shortages.