Palmer stuck with huge malaria drug stash
Businessman Clive Palmer has been left holding more than 10 million doses of hydroxychloroquine after the government stopped accepting his donations of the discredited COVID-19 treatment.
Early in the pandemic Mr Palmer sent his staff on a secret global quest to find 40 million doses of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which was famously touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential "game changer" in the fight against coronavirus.
Mr Palmer squeezed his global contacts to buy what was once the world's most in-demand drug with the government granting him a special exemption to donate the stash to the national medical stockpile.
The Government took more than 22m doses from Mr Palmer but eventually cooled on the need for the drug as multiple studies failed to find evidence it was effective either as a preventive measure or treatment for COVID-19.
A Health Department spokeswoman said the government wrote to the Palmer Foundation on June 18 "acknowledging the donations but advising that no further donations were required". "As of that date finished product or active pharmaceutical ingredient equivalent to 22.4 million doses had been donated for the national medical stockpile," she said in a statement.
"A further 10.5 million doses had been offered but these were declined."
Hydroxychloroquine is approved for use in Australia to treat malaria and some auto-immune conditions however only under medical supervision.
It can have serious side effects such as visual disturbances, hearing loss, suicidal behaviours, changes to heart rhythm and severe hypoglycaemia.
Mr Trump revealed in May that he was ingesting the drug in a bid to try and ward off COVID-19.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration warns that using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 is "strongly discouraged" unless a patient is enrolled in a clinical trial.
The Health Department has been trying to unload some of Mr Palmer's stockpile by letting the "clinical trials community" know applications for supply are available.
"The Government continually monitors evidence of clinical effectiveness of medicines held in the national medical stockpile and will evaluate its distribution as required," a spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Mr Palmer did not respond to a request for comment.
Originally published as Palmer stuck with huge malaria drug stash