Urgent call to members – review your hydroxychloroquine prescribing habits

23 Apr 2020

Recently, there have been media reports of hydroxychloroquine being used as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Clinical trials are underway, however, at the moment, there is not enough evidence to use this medication on a wider scale.

Despite its status as a trial medication, there has been a significant increase in the number of hydroxychloroquine prescriptions, likely due to off-label use. This increased demand has resulted in patients with an approved clinical need for hydroxychloroquine unable to fill their prescriptions.

Prescribers have a responsibility to make sure hydroxychloroquine is available to those who need it as determined by their medical condition.

This includes, as approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, rheumatoid arthritis, mild systemic and discoid lupus erythematosus and the suppression and treatment of malaria.

New restrictions for prescribing hydroxychloroquine are already in place.

As of 24 March 2020, initial treatment of hydroxychloroquine must be authorised by a medical practitioner under the following specialties:

  • Dermatology
  • Intensive care medicine
  • Paediatrics and child health
  • Physician
  • Emergency medicine

General practitioners and other medical practitioners (e.g. hospital Resident Medical Officers and doctors in training) are still able to prescribe repeats for patients with a clinical need if the medication was prescribed before 24 March 2020. On and after 24 March 2020, GPs and Doctors in Training can only prescribe these medications when initial treatment is authorised by a medical practitioner under one of the specialties listed above. Authorisation can be written or oral and must be recorded in the patient’s medical file.

These changes will be reflected under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on the 1 May 2020. Hydroxychloroquine will be listed as an Authority Required (STREAMLINED) listing.

More information on these changes is available on the TGA website, here https://www.tga.gov.au/alert/new-restrictions-prescribing-hydroxychloroquine-covid-19