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A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets in Texas City, Texas, on April 7, 2020. (AP/Phillip) A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets in Texas City, Texas, on April 7, 2020. (AP/Phillip)

A bottle of hydroxychloroquine tablets in Texas City, Texas, on April 7, 2020. (AP/Phillip)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy December 16, 2020

No, the AMA didn’t rescind statement on hydroxychloroquine

If Your Time is short

  • The American Medical Association never took back its March statement concerning hydroxychloroquine. The group tweeted that Rush Limbaugh’s claim is wrong.

  • The AMA considered a resolution to rescind a previous statement on the drug when the group’s policymaking body met in November. But it ultimately rejected the resolution.

  • The website Limbaugh cited has corrected its story.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that the American Medical Association rescinded a previous statement and came out in support of hydroxychloroquine, the drug pushed by President Donald Trump for months as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

"Now all of a sudden the AMA (said) — although very quietly — that hydroxychloroquine is okay," Limbaugh said Dec. 15, telling his millions of listeners that the group’s past statements were meant to hurt Trump. "It’s perfectly fine. Go ahead and use it if you want. It can be helpful."

Limbaugh read from an article in the Published Reporter, a website based in South Florida. The website wrote that the AMA "rescinded" a statement related to hydroxychloroquine. 

Limbaugh accused the AMA of "knowingly lying about hydroxychloroquine." But as the Poynter Institute reported, the AMA never retracted its statement on the drug. The Published Reporter and other websites that spread similar claims have walked back their reports, and the AMA addressed the matter on Twitter.

"In March, AMA urged caution about prescribing hydroxychloroquine off-label to treat #COVID19," the AMA wrote, with a link to Poynter’s Covering COVID-19 newsletter by Al Tompkins. "Our position remains unchanged. Evidence-based #science & practice must guide these determinations." 

Several inaccurate social media posts from Limbaugh and others accounts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) Some were shared by prominent figures, such as actress Kirstie Alley, who tweeted a since-corrected story calling the AMA "soulless hacks."

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Limbaugh did not respond to a request for comment. 

The AMA’s March 25 statement, issued jointly with pharmacists’ groups and updated in April, signaled opposition to doctors prescribing hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment or preventative measure, and to facilities ordering the drug in excessive amounts. 

The statement cautioned that "no medication has been FDA-approved for use in COVID-19 patients" and warned of supply-chain disruptions for patients who rely on hydroxychloroquine for other chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. 

The statement also said "novel off-label use of FDA-approved medications is a matter for the physician’s or other prescriber’s professional judgment." It encouraged "patient-centered care decisions" but said "evidence-based science and practice must guide these determinations."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June revoked its emergency use authorization for use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 therapy. The agency later cautioned against the drug’s use for the virus outside of the hospital setting after a review of safety issues. There is little sign that hydroxychloroquine is effective for coronavirus patients.

A resolution submitted ahead of a November meeting of the AMA’s policymaking body proposed that the group retract the March statement. The resolution called for an updated statement "notifying patients that further studies are ongoing" and supporting physicians’ use of judgment to prescribe the drug off-label to patients with early COVID-19 symptoms.

The resolution was not adopted, however. The vote against the measure followed "fierce opposition," MedPage Today reported.

The Published Reporter has amended the story Limbaugh cited with a correction in bolded font that said the resolution "was not accepted." Lead Stories also debunked the false claims.

We rate Limbaugh’s claim False.

Our Sources

The Rush Limbaugh Show, "The AMA Quietly Admits They Lied About Hydroxychloroquine," Dec. 15, 2020

American Medical Association on Twitter, Dec. 16, 2020

The Poynter Institute, "When you lie about pandemics and public health, people die," Dec. 16, 2020

Lead Stories, "Fact Check: The American Medical Association Did NOT Rescind Its Original Guidance On Hydroxychloroquine," Dec. 16, 2020

The Published Reporter, "UPDATE: American Medical Association Considers Resolution On Statement Against Prescription Of Hydroxychloroquine For COVID-19 Patients," (archived original), Dec. 11, 2020

The Gateway Pundit, "American Medical Association Votes on Hydroxychloroquine Prevention Order, Keeps it in Place — How Many People Have Died Because of These Soulless Hacks?" (archived original), Dec. 15, 2020

Tweets, Dec. 15, 2020

Blog post, Dec. 14, 2020

American Medical Association, "Proceedings of the November 2020 Special Meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates," November 2020

American Medical Association, "AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION HOUSE OF DELEGATES (November 2020 Meeting) Report of Reference Committee E," November 2020

MedPage Today, "AMA Policy Throws Shade on Diehard HCQ Docs," Nov. 16, 2020

American Medical Association, "Handbook Addendum - Supplemental Business and Information," Oct. 30, 2020

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "FDA cautions against use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems," July 1, 2020

American Medical Association, "Joint statement on ordering, prescribing or dispensing COVID-19 medications," April 17, 2020

American Medical Association, "AMA, APhA, ASHP issue joint statement about COVID-19 medications," March 15, 2020

PolitiFact, "Lie of the Year: Coronavirus downplay and denial," Dec. 16, 2020

PolitiFact, "Yes, at least five randomized controlled studies say hydroxychloroquine doesn’t help," Aug. 5, 2020

Email correspondence with the American Medical Association, Dec. 16, 2020

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More by Bill McCarthy

No, the AMA didn’t rescind statement on hydroxychloroquine

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