Amid COVID-19 Outbreak, Pharmacies are Limiting Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions, Leaving Lupus and RA Patients Without Medication

President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter and press conferences to suggest that hydroxychloroquine, a drug commonly used to treat malaria and rheumatic conditions may be a potential treatment for COVID-19. Although research is now suggesting that the drug may not be beneficial for COVID-19 after all, hydroxychloroquine shortages are being seen in pharmacies across the country, compromising patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.

According to an interview with BuzzFeed News, one systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patient is no longer receiving her medication at all. The patient, identified as a 45-year-old woman named Dale, shared a screenshot of an email she reportedly received from her healthcare provider saying that her prescription will no longer be refilled because they are “conserving the current supply for those who are critically ill with COVID-19.”

The email further read, “Thank you for the sacrifice you will be making for the sake of those that are critically ill; your sacrifice may actually save lives.”

“The fact that they thanked me for my ‘sacrifice’ is disturbing,” Dale told BuzzFeed News. “I never agreed to sacrifice my health and possibly my life and cannot believe that I am being forced to do so.”

Dale is an immunocompromised patient, making her part of the population at the most significant risk of complications related to COVID-19.

Dale said when she reached out to Kaiser Permanente she was reportedly told, “Please do not contact your physician about an exception process to get a refill, as prescriptions will not be filled even if written by your physician. Hydroxychloroquine does build up a level in the system that stays in the body for an average of 40 days even after the last dose is taken. If you do run out of medication and feel your condition is significantly worsening, please contact your doctor to discuss alternative treatments.”

A statement from Kaiser obtained by BuzzFeed News “confirmed that it was no longer filling routine prescriptions for chloroquine,” the outlet reported.

Texas has already reported limiting prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine as well as chloroquine, mefloquine and azithromycin. The Alabama Board of Pharmacy reported a shortage in hydroxychloroquine.

Donnie Calhoun, owner of Calhoun Compounding Pharmacy in Anniston, equated the shortage to that of toilet paper: “People are saying, ‘I want it in case I need it.’” Her remarks were reported by The Anniston Star.