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Tuberville demands federal government answer for restricting Alabama’s access to effective COVID-19 treatment

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier this month notified state health agencies that efforts to expand monoclonal antibody therapy locations have been placed on hold, leading many to question the decision which they believe will lead to supply shortages of the life-saving COVID-19 treatment.

Additionally, HHS announced that it was limiting the quantity of the treatment that health care providers can order. The department’s move was met with criticism from the Alabama Medical Association, which claimed that patients have experienced positive reactions from the treatment within 24 to 48 hours upon it being administered.

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Friday penned a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in which the senator pressed for answers regarding the department’s decision to ration the treatments. Under new guidelines, HHS claims it has the authority to restrict shipments of the life-saving drug to states that it deems are using more than the necessary quantity.

The senator’s office says the department has limited access to largely Republican states, including Alabama. The department maintains that the changes it has implemented have been out of “fairness and equity.”

The gravest concern that Tuberville notes in his letter to the HHS head is that he believes the department to have seemingly acted with political bias in its decision-making process.

“My concern lies not just in the new program HHS has dictated – which will also require state officials to hire additional staff to manage, during an ongoing workforce shortage – but in the sudden manner these changes were announced, and states that have been singled out.”

The letter further expresses the senator’s disapproval of the department’s disruption of the treatment’s supply chain.

“Simply put, I am concerned that by seizing control of this critical supply chain, HHS will exert more power over states by restricting access to these treatments,” Tuberville’s letter reads. “The ability to withhold access is problematic in that it allows unelected bureaucrats at HHS to put undue political pressure on states to comply with whatever additional COVID-related mandates they deem appropriate.”

Alabama’s junior senator touted the statewide effort to combat the spread of the virus and expressed his desire for HHS to end its rationing of the crucial treatment.

“Physicians and health care providers in the state of Alabama remain committed to working together to fight COVID-19 in our communities, just as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. They simply ask for the unrestricted freedom and ability to continue the fight by using every available tool in the toolbox – and monoclonal antibody drugs remain absolutely critical in that effort,” the letter concludes.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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