Dept. of Justice supports distribution of controversial drug to treat COVID-19

New shipments of a drug designed to fight the coronavirus have arrived in Central Florida.

The arrival comes despite some potentially dangerous side effects that have been discovered.

Taylors Pharmacy in Winter Park received its first shipment of hydroxychloroquine Friday.

Hundreds of doses arrived in two small containers.

Mike Johnson, from Taylors Pharmacy, got his hands on it as fast as he could.

“Initially, people panicked and so everybody wanted it. The phone was ringing off the hook,” Johnson said.

But in recent weeks, “that’s slacked off and I think it’s because there’s a lot of restrictions in a lot of states,” he said. 

Not to mention, two clinical trials of the drug were halted recently after heart complications were discovered.

But Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice released a letter to a U.S. drug company supporting the distribution of critical medicines, including hydroxychloroquine, to treat COVID-19.

So, what’s the deal with this drug?

“We need more studies and I think you’re going to find physicians on the fence. You’re going to find probably 50 percent who are willing to prescribe it and 50 percent who are not willing to prescribe it,” said Dr. Jason Littleton, of Littleton Concierge Medicine.

Dr. Littleton prescribed it for several confirmed COVID patients.

“My patients have fared great," he said. "I haven’t had any major side effects. I have had close monitoring and that’s key.”

The anti-malaria drug has been around for years and is currently used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Mike Johnson is using his supply for those patients and whoever else receives a prescription from their doctor.

“We’re hoping the studies come showing positive results,” he said.

Dr. Littleton says hydroxychloroquine appears to work best for confirmed coronavirus patients with no history of heart or other severe health issues.

According to the FDA, there are currently 72 different clinical trials right now for potential COVID-19 treatments.