S.D. still seeks guidance on hydroxychloroquine

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Hydroxychloroquine Tablets in Texas City, Texas. On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned doctors against prescribing the malaria drug to treat COVID-19 outside of hospitals or research settings. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Weeks after halting a South Dakota study into effects of hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19, state officials and health system leaders continue to wait for direction from federal officials on what to do with doses that were routed here for the experiment.

That’s according to state Department of Health spokesman Derrick Haskins.

“We have not received guidance from the federal government. Each of the state’s health systems received an allocation of the drug,” Haskins said.

In a followup Monday, he added, “We don’t have any reason to believe that guidance will not be forthcoming.”

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced the study April 13. Sanford Health led the effort that initially was to see how hydroxychloroquine could be used against COVID-19.

The effort was reconfigured during the next month. The goal as of May 28 was to involve 2,000 outpatients. About 270 were enrolled by June 5, when Sanford issued a news release saying the study wouldn’t continue, after publication of results from a similar study conducted by the University of Minnesota.

“After closely reviewing the new research, our clinical trial team determined that the South Dakota study is unlikely to see different results,” said Susan Hoover, Sanford Health infectious disease doctor and principal investigator of the study, in the statement. “We’re focused on our goal of advancing the science around this disease and will continue to pursue other COVID-19 research.”

The governor was quoted in the statement’s next to last paragraph.

“From the beginning, all research decisions regarding this study have been in the hands of the research teams at Sanford, Avera, and Monument, and I value all of their hard work,” Noem said. “The state appreciates working with the systems, and we will continue to invest our resources into the most promising approaches to preventing and treating COVID-19.”

The governor hasn’t appeared at a COVID-19 briefing since the study was halted.

She had talked to White House officials to get the drug.

“From day one, I’ve said we’re going to let the science, facts, and data drive our decision-making in South Dakota,” Noem had said in April during her announcement of the study. “Throughout last week, I communicated with White House officials to let them know that South Dakota’s medical community was ready to step up and lead the way on research efforts. I made direct requests to President Trump and Vice President Pence to supply us with enough hydroxychloroquine so that it could be made available for every hospitalized person the state may have as well as for those healthcare workers on the frontlines and those in the most vulnerable populations.

“Today, I’m pleased to report we have received the initial doses we need, and thanks to the leadership of Sanford Health and the assistance of the medical teams at Avera and Monument Health, we’re going to be the first state in the nation to do a comprehensive clinical trial to assess whether hydroxychloroquine can treat and perhaps even prevent COVID-19.”

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