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Iowa ‘not pursuing any contract for hydroxychloroquine’

Iowa ‘not pursuing any contract for hydroxychloroquine’

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DAVENPORT — The Test Iowa questionnaire, which screens possible coronavirus patients in the state, asks if an individual is allergic to hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug being studied as a possible COVID-19 treatment.

That has raised questions about a potential conflict of interest. The founder and CEO of Nomi Health, the company behind Test Iowa, serves on the board of directors of a pharmacy that supplies hydroxychloroquine, according to published reports.

The state is not pursuing a contract for hydroxychloroquine, said Pat Garrett, spokesman for Governor Kim Reynolds.

“The assessment asks about several potential allergies, all to drugs that were floated as potential treatments to COVID-19,” Garrett said.

Test Iowa launched this week to “crush the curve” by screening possible COVID-19 cases through an online platform. Those whose symptoms qualify are tested at no cost. The effort is a public-private partnership between the state and Nomi Health and its subsidiary DOMO. Nomi received a $26 million no-bid contract for the initiative.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday that Nomi founder and CEO Mark Newman is on the board of Meds in Motion, a hydroxychloroquine supplier contracted with Utah for 20,000 doses worth $800,000.

The team behind TestUtah.com launched Iowa’s initiative and a similar program in Nebraska. Questions of potential conflicts of interest are appearing in all three states.

Some are concerned the Test Iowa questionnaires will steer patients toward hydroxychloroquine. On Friday, the Food and Drug administration warned against taking chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 outside outside a hospital or formal clinical trial. The warning came after reports of issues such as “serious heart rhythm problems.”

Newman told the Gazette in Cedar Rapids that at the time the questionnaire was made, hydroxychloroquine was one of only a few drugs thought to be possible treatments for COVID-19. He said he is considering removing hydroxychloroquine from the questionnaire, as health recommendations now are urging Americans not to consume it.

Newman also told the Gazette he would consider resigning from the board of Meds in Motion if his position became a significant issue.

The Test Iowa Initiative was launched after the governor acted on a tip from actor and Iowa native Ashton Kutcher.

In a statement from Kutcher through his spokesman, Kutcher said he was talking to Reynolds about “tightening up the stay-at-home orders in Iowa” because he saw the viral transfer rate “was increasing very fast.”

“I also suggested she connect with Governor Herbert and his test Utah team. He and I have also been talking to about foster care solutions. Governor Reynolds jumped at the chance and moved fast to implement,” Kutcher said.

“My family is in Iowa. My friends are in Iowa. Iam and will always be an Iowan. My first order of duty is to protect my family,” Kutcher said.

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