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Another Unintended Consequence of COVID-19: Chloroquine Shortages Hurt Lupus Patients

I realize that saving COVID-19 patients is important--saving lives. But let's not make drugs like Plaquenil unavailable for those who rely on them.

The limited studies of using chloroquine and azithromycin to treat COVID-19 show promise, and that’s a good thing. But should these medicines fall into wide usage, there is a dark unintended consequence. Shortages of this medicine hurt Lupus sufferers, who rely on chloroquine to function.

Stories from around the country are beginning to show up noting Lupus patients who have been denied the drug for which they have a prescription.

From Kansas City:

Before Aisha Kelley headed to the pharmacy last week, she heard from a fellow lupus patient that she might have trouble getting her prescription filled.

Her medication, hydroxychloroquine, sold by the brand name Plaquenil, keeps her body from turning against her. It is considered the most important drug for lupus patients, but now is also being investigated as a possible treatment for the new coronavirus.

Before Plaquenil, Kelley’s children had to help her shower and dress because the autoimmune disease made her legs wobbly like Jell-O.

From Oakland:

“It just seems like we shouldn’t have to fight for it but unfortunately that’s the way it’s going to be,” Billye Brown said.

Billye Brown has been living with discoid lupus for 15 years.

This condition affects her skin, causing severe rashes on her face and hair loss.

Brown uses hydroxychloroquine also known by its brand name plaquenil to keep the lupus symptoms from worsening.

She’s now down to a week’s supply.

“So what I’ve done just to extend that is to cut the pill in half,” Brown said. 

Brown is a patient of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.

She was told by her pharmacy she will not be able to refill her prescription because there is a shortage of the drug.

I have personal knowledge of similar stories.

I realize that saving COVID-19 patients is important–saving lives. But let’s not make drugs like Plaquenil unavailable for those who rely on them.

Let’s also pray for those with Lupus to not get the dread Coronavirus, as Lupus weakens the immune system.

Just as the economic cost of fighting COVID-19 is causing some people’s lives to be ruined, grabbing all the Plaquenil, without setting aside a stock for those who depend on it, is not good public policy.

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