In a state hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, a Brooklyn pharmacist and PCCA member has provided dozens of infected patients with a compounded drug treatment their doctors could not obtain elsewhere.
Gopesh Patel, RPh, owner and operator of VLS Pharmacy, has filled physician prescriptions for more than 70 COVID-19 patients, supplying a compounded formulation with hydroxychloroquine. This drug is primarily used for arthritis and malaria, but has shown promise for relieving COVID-19 symptoms, according to French and Chinese researchers.
Patel, a pharmacist in New York for 35 years who is licensed in 28 states, is another example of PCCA members -- compounding pharmacies and hospitals -- who have stepped up efforts in their communities amid a pandemic that has strained health care providers. He said he’s been contacted by doctors and hospitals nationwide looking for customized drug formulations that are not available from non-compounding sources.
"As a pharmacist, there is nothing more heartbreaking than to tell someone that the medicine that could improve, or better yet, save their life, is not available because it's on shortage or backorder,” Patel said. “Being able then to offer hope by explaining that I can make their medicine - well, there is no better feeling. Compounding makes the impossible possible and it provides peace when there is panic - and there is some real panic going on right now.”
Pursuant to prescriptions from two dozen physicians, Patel said he has compounded the hydroxychloroquine formulation with antiviral agents and dispensed the medication to more than 70 COVID-19 patients. The medication is administered in tablet and capsule form. PCCA is an FDA-registered and -inspected chemical repackager and relabeler that supplies hydroxychloroquine powder.
Some physicians sought Patel out as early as 14 days ago, meaning he has been involved in the response to some of the earliest reported coronavirus cases in New York. The state has emerged as one of the key battlegrounds with 4,152 infections statewide and more than 2,469 in New York City alone.
“In these uncertain times, compounders are a potential lifeline for doctors and patients looking for treatment they cannot obtain elsewhere,” said Dr. Howard Kesselman, an infectious disease physician affiliated with Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Mass. He regularly uses compounding pharmacies.
PCCA Chief Scientific Officer Gus Bassani, PharmD, said that because hydroxychloroquine is not new to the market, PCCA had formulations for capsules and oral suspensions that were made readily accessible to its network of community and hospital pharmacies.
“With so much discussion about ‘cutting through the red tape’ to swiftly develop and produce drug therapies for COVID-19, it is encouraging that this viable therapeutic option can be compounded by pharmacists in the community and in hospitals under existing federal law and FDA regulations,” Bassani said.
International studies and early indications have shown that hydroxychloroquine has potential to help humans infected with the coronavirus, leading to faster recovery times and shorter hospital stays. Because of that, Patel said he expects an increasing demand for this compounded medicine. PCCA has also seen this increasing demand among its customer base across the country, especially now because of reported shortages of commercially available hydroxychloroquine tablets.
“We are working with brilliant doctors and analyzing the medical literature to collaboratively create treatment plans for worried and at-risk patients,” Patel said. “Being in New York, which has been one of the areas most harshly impacted by the virus, we are poised to step in and help fill the gaps. It is truly remarkable to fill unmet needs and we look forward to hearing about positive patient outcomes."
In addition to providing the compounded medicine, Patel’s pharmacy – like many other compounding pharmacies – is giving pharmaceutical-grade, alcohol-based hand sanitizers to patients and first responders in the community, now that the FDA has removed the prescription requirement for these products.
Learn more at www.pccarx.com.