Oklahoma to Return Malaria Drug Stockpile for $2.6M Refund

California-based FFF Enterprises will take back 12,000 bottles of hydroxychloroquine after studies showed it is not an effective treatment for Covid-19.

An arrangement of hydroxychloroquine tablets. (AP Photo/John Locher)

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — Oklahoma officials announced Friday the state will receive a full $2.6 million refund for its stockpile of hydroxychloroquine, months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked emergency use authorization for the malaria drug as a Covid-19 treatment due to lack of effectiveness.

California-based FFF Enterprises agreed to take back the 12,000 bottle supply after state officials claimed the prices paid might have been excessive under the Oklahoma Emergency Price Stabilization Act or the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act.

“FFF Enterprises denies any and all allegations related to the pricing and delivery of the products to the state of Oklahoma,” the six-page settlement agreement states.

Republican Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter commended the company’s leadership for issuing the refund, saying they “did the right by refunding” the money.

“They recognized we were in competition with every other state in the nation to get whatever we could to protect Oklahomans,” Hunter said in a statement.

The Oklahoma Department of State Health purchased the hydroxychloroquine under executive orders last year by Governor Kevin Stitt, also a Republican. He has defended the purchase, stating the drug showed some promise as a Covid-19 treatment in early March 2020 and did not want to miss an opportunity to buy some.

“I was being proactive to try and protect Oklahomans,” Stitt said at the time.

Stitt is a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment during the pandemic. Trump has publicly claimed he has personally taken the drug.

The FDA revoked emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment in June after a study indicated it “does not reduce the risk of death” among hospitalized patients. This came on the heels of an FDA warning two months earlier that the drug could cause heart rhythm issues. Its use was limited to hospitals or clinical trials.

A separate study in May 2020 concluded patients given the drug showed no benefit and were more likely to die or develop an irregular heartbeat.

FFF allegedly made over $194,000 in profit from the sale after buying the bottles for $202.32 each from an importer and selling them to Oklahoma for $218.50 each, according to the settlement. Oklahoma paid for the purchase with money from the $2 trillion federal CARES Act.

State medical boards have since warned physicians they may face disciplinary action if they falsely advertise hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 cure.

Former Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, also initially defended his state’s $800,000 no-bid buy of hydroxychloroquine, but the state later cancelled plans to buy another $8 million worth. Utah later secured a refund of the $800,000 paid to Meds In Motion, a local pharmacy company. The owner of that company, Dan Richards, later pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor charges for mislabeling the drug that was imported from China.

Richards admitted to receiving large amounts of the drug from an unregistered manufacturer in China incorrectly labeled as an herbal supplement. His lawyer has claimed Richards was trying to help procure as much of the drug as possible because it seemed like a promising treatment for coronavirus at the time.

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