State Watch

Oklahoma secures refund for its hydroxychloroquine stockpile

Oklahoma has reached an agreement with a California-based pharmaceutical company to secure a $2.6 million refund for a stockpile of an ineffective drug the state purchased to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Friday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) said he had secured a full refund for the drug hydroxychloroquine from FFF Enterprises, based in Temecula.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 patients in hospital settings, based on early studies of the severely ill.

Then-President Trump seized on the emergency use authorization as evidence that his administration was getting the pandemic under control. Oklahoma was among the first states to embrace the treatment with a quick order for 1.2 million doses of the drug, in April 2020.

But subsequent studies around the world showed the drug was ineffective in treating cases of COVID-19, and on July 4, 2020, the World Health Organization discontinued trials that proved the drug did not work. The FDA followed, revoking its own emergency use authorization last year.

In a settlement agreement released Friday, Oklahoma and FFF Enterprises agreed to the refund so that the company could avoid litigation over Hunter's allegation that the company charged the state too much for the drugs.

As a part of the agreement, FFF Enterprises denied it charged the state an excessive amount. The company will repay the state in five equal payments, beginning with the first in about three weeks.

"I commend the leadership at FFF Enterprises who worked with us to return the state's supply of hydroxychloroquine while giving the state a refund," Hunter said in a statement. "They recognized we were in competition with every other state in the nation to get whatever we could to protect Oklahomans. When it was determined the drug wasn't effective in combatting the virus, they did the right thing by refunding our money."