Tampa Bay doctor says CVS Pharmacy refused to fill prescription for COVID-19 patient

Coronavirus

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area doctor is confused and upset after a pharmacy refused to dispense medication for a patient with COVID-19. This is the first time the doctor says he’s ever been questioned about a prescription.

Doctor Speros Hampilos got a call from a patient with alarming news.

“So he called me yesterday and said doc, I was in the ER diagnosed with pneumonia and COVID-19 and I still don’t feel good,” said Dr. Speros Hampilos.

Leaning on 35 years of experience, the doctor wrote a script for three medications, among them, hydroxychloroquine which was approved 65 years ago to treat malaria the drug also helps people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Controversy has surrounded the drug as of late as different studies are looking into whether it helps treat people sick with coronavirus.

“When my assistant gave the COVID-19 diagnosis CVS said, sorry we can’t dispense the drug,” he said.

Doctor Speros was shocked.

“This is the first time we’ve been asked for a diagnosis and was declined,” said Dr. Speros.

He called another pharmacy and got it filled right away. He reached out 8 On Your Side wanting to know more than the reason he was told over the phone by the pharmacist.

“But unless your hands are tied by corporate policy there isn’t much they can do,” said Dr. Speros.

“That’s what they told you the reason was right,” asked 8 On Your Side’s Marco Villarreal.

“Policy. We can’t dispense it for that diagnosis.”

CVS Pharmacy sent 8 On Your Side this statement:

We’re balancing the off-label use of certain prescription medications to treat COVID-19 pneumonia with the ongoing needs of patients who are prescribed these drugs to help manage chronic conditions such as lupus, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Our goal is to limit stockpiling of medication that could result in future shortages and gaps in care. Our pharmacies are following dispensing guidelines regarding the use of these medications for COVID-19 that have been established in certain states. In states with no guidelines, our pharmacies are limiting the dispensing for COVID-19 treatment to a 10-day supply with no refills.

Pharmacists also consider a variety of factors when evaluating prescriptions. These factors, along with a pharmacist’s professional judgement, help them to determine when it’s necessary to verify information with a physician before filling a prescription.

Dr. Speros says that’s unacceptable to patients who need that medication to battle coronavirus.

“If I would have said malaria or lupus I’d probably would have gotten it,” he said.

Doctor Speros says he has reached out to representative Gus Bilirakis with the hope this doesn’t happen again.

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