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Sharp increase in prescriptions for unproven drug to treat COVID-19 prompts rebuke

Alberta's College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Pharmacy are calling out some of their own members over what they regard as questionable prescriptions.

Governing bodies for physicians and pharmacists and Alberta's top doctor concerned

Dr. Deena Hinshaw addresses the legislature about the COVID-19 outbreak. (Art Raham/CBC)

The Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Alberta College of Pharmacy are calling out some of their own members over what they regard as questionable prescriptions. 
     
And the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is adding her voice to the message.

Choloroquine is anti-malaria medication, but there was an early suggestion it might be used to treat COVID 19.
     
It's not approved for that use, but despite that, the College of Physicians and Surgeons says there has been a sharp increase in prescriptions for it and other medications.
     
"This isn't just happening here. Medical boards in the United States and all of our sister organizations are reporting the same thing happening," said Dr. Michael Caffaro, the complaints director for the college.

The situation prompted the College of Physicians and Surgeons to issue a joint statement with the Alberta College of Pharmacy reminding everyone with prescribing powers of their professional responsibilities.

"During this challenging and unparalleled time, it's natural for patients to seek treatments they feel might be helpful. However, it is important for all health practitioners to remember the importance of evidence-based care and prescribing," the statement said.

"Medications must be prescribed and dispensed according to their approved use — and currently, there is no proven treatment for COVID-19."

Hinshaw says there are reports of physicians prescribing the medicines to themselves and family members. 

Physicians prescribing medicines to themselves and family 'inappropriate,' says Dr. Deena Hinshaw

2 years ago
Duration 1:54
Alberta's chief medical officer of health is calling on doctors to stop questionable prescriptions immediately.

"This is inappropriate," she said.

"These medications are used to treat patients suffering from things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and HIV."

The College of Physicians and Surgeons says that despite the rise in prescription rates, there isn't a shortage of the medications, and so far patients who need them haven't been denied.

With files from Elissa Carpenter

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