This Monday, April 6, 2020, photo shows an arrangement of Hydroxychloroquine pills in Las Vegas.
Associated Press/John Locher
The Bureau of Prisons placed an order for $60,000 worth of hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets in March, federal spending records show.
A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson told Insider the drugs were intended to treat COVID-19 patients.
The novel coronavirus has been spreading rapidly throughout federal prisons, and the BOP reported Monday that eight inmates have died so far, and at least 195 have tested positive.
The Trump administration has vigorously talked up hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment or prophylactic, though no large-scale clinical trials have proven that it is effective.
The nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly warned that there is not yet enough evidence showing the drug can treat or prevent the virus.
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The agency that oversees the nation’s federal prisons and jails has placed a $60,000 order for the drug hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial medication some doctors have been using to treat the novel coronavirus, according to federal spending records.
The records show that the Bureau of Prisons placed the order for 200-milligram tablets of hydroxychloroquine sulfate on March 31 from the company Premium Rx National. The Daily Beast was first to report on the records.
A BOP spokesperson told Insider the purchase was made “for treatment of COVID-19.”
The agency later told Insider in a statement that the drug is currently only being used for patients who have returned from local hospitals and have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine.
“At present, the CDC gives no recommendations on the routine initiation of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of patients infected with COVID-19 in the outpatient setting,” the statement said. “For patients that are returning from the local hospital and have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine in accordance with the FDA Emergency Use Authorization we are completing the hydroxychloroquine treatment.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs also made two purchases of the drug in recent days — one for $168,000 and another for $40,000, public records showed.
The Trump administration has vigorously talked up hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment or prophylactic, despite warnings from medical experts that the drug has not undergone rigorous clinical testing and remains unproven as a coronavirus treatment.
President Donald Trump even said Saturday he “may take” the drug and would ask his doctors about it, though he has twice tested negative for coronavirus.
A prison cell block is seen following a tour by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
The nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has repeatedly warned that there is not enough evidence that the drug is effective, and that existing studies only provide “anecdotal evidence” and have been too small to prove the drug works.
The drug has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating or preventing coronavirus, though the agency has authorized some emergency use for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
But the BOP has been scrambling to contain the spread of coronavirus throughout its facilities, where both staff and inmates have grown ill and even died from the disease.
The BOP said Monday that 195 federal inmates and 63 BOP staff members so far have tested positive for the virus, and eight inmates have died from COVID-19.
One particularly hard-struck prison, FCI Oakdale in Louisiana, has seen five inmate deaths in recent weeks. Seven more Oakdale prisoners are in intensive care, four are on ventilators, and at least 25 in total have tested positive, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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