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Department of Veterans Affairs Giving Hydroxychloroquine to Veterans

June 02, 2020

cawleyI read a very disturbing story in USA Today regarding the prescribing of hydroxychloroquine for approximately 1300 veterans. The article explained that the VA purchased more than 6.3 million tablets of the drug to treat veterans for coronavirus. The VA Secretary, in a letter to a congressman noted that the FDA authorized physicians to use the drug. “The drug is being used in some patients in the final stages of the veteran’s life in the hope that it has some positive effects”. Also, the VA says the drug is being used for other approved uses including malaria (I assume many of the veterans have this) and certain autoimmune disorders. 1

If there is any hint that any of this is true, this is truly egregious conduct for a number of reasons. Multiple clinical studies have demonstrated the drug has no effect as preventative treatment for the coronavirus or may cause more harm. The FDA has not recommended to use the drug for the use of coronavirus, unless, a patient is included in a clinical trial. Just because our highest leader promotes the drug does not give the VA the right to impose this treatment on patients. Were VA physicians incentivized to prescribe the drug? Why do you need more than 6 million doses?  How are physicians being allowed in the VA to prescribe this for coronavirus? Is it a clinical study? Did they enroll 1,300 veterans into a study? Did the veteran consent to the study? Are they able to consent to the study and understand the risks? Were risks even explained to them? Are they causing more harm to the veterans by accelerating their death?

Again, there are so many questions that are so alarming that needs to be investigated by congress. If this story is indeed true, in any way, it is disturbing at so many levels. Maybe in time we will truly understand what is happening here. Then again, we may not.

Michael J. Cawley, PharmD, RRT, CPFT, FCCM, has more than 25 years of experience practicing in the areas of medical, surgical, trauma, and burn intensive care as both a critical care clinical pharmacist and registered respiratory therapist.


  1. USA Today. “We need answers”: VA has given hydroxychloroquine to 1,300 vets with COVID-19 amid troubling studies. Accessed May 23, 2020.

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