Two federal agencies have placed orders for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine — using taxpayer money — even as debate rages over its effectiveness in fighting the coronavirus, according to a new report. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons have both reported purchases of the drug — which is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus — since March 26, according to procurement records obtained by The Daily Beast . Veterans Affairs purchased $168,000 in hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets from the Colorado-based generic drug distributor Golden State Medical Supply, and an additional $40,000 from the pharmaceutical company McKesson, according to the report. Procurement records list both as “emergency” purchase orders to combat the coronavirus crisis. The Bureau of Prisons bought $60,000 hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets from the company Premium Rx National on March 31 — and did not mention the deadly virus in its order, but the purchase comes as federal correctional facilities saw a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to the report. It appears to be the first time the agency has purchased the drug, the outlet reported. Neither agency responded to questions from the outlet about whether or how their purchases would be used, either immediately or in the future, to treat coronavirus patients. But critics have balked at the idea of promoting the drug — citing limited or anecdotal evidence about its success. And they warn the promotion of the drug could lead to a shortage of the medication for those who use it for other illnesses.
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