Lupus patients struggle to fill prescriptions after Trump touts drug for COVID-19

President Donald Trump’s claim that Plaquenil, better known by the generic name hydroxychloroquine, could combat the novel coronavirus has led to a decline in supply for those who need the medicine most.

There is little evidence the drug works as a treatment against COVID-19, however, this does not stop some from stocking up. According to ProPublica, following Trump’s public announcement the drug has remained in low-stock, which has prevented patients who use the medicine to treat Lupus and other illnesses from filling their regular prescriptions.

Lupus is a serious autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the body, causing extreme pain, fatigue, and organ damage. According to Lupus.org, the illness disproportionately affects Black women.

Research shows that lupus impacts 1 out of every 537 Black women, and African American patients are more likely to have organ system involvement, more active disease and lower levels of support compared to white lupus patients.

Dealing with Lupus includes adhering to health regimens that for some are now compromised. This leaves patients, mostly Black women, open to not only lupus complications, but also puts them at greater risk for contracting a serious case of coronavirus.

According to ProPublica, Anna Valdez, a lupus patient who uses Plaquenil shared her fear that her supply could run dry. Valdez, a 49-year-old resident of California, has used Plaquenil for 15 years and on a recent trip to fill her prescription was informed the pharmacy only had 10 pills in stock.

Valdez shares that the lack of Plaquenil may trigger a flare, or cause her to take stronger, harmful medicine’s in place of the out-of-stock drugs.

“When I think about the other people out there with lupus and other autoimmune disorders, we’re all really scared right now. I haven’t left my house in nine days. I’m working completely remotely,” Valdez said.

“If I get coronavirus, unlike someone else my age, almost 50 years old, who is likely to recover and will be fine, I will likely end up in the ICU.”

Although strong evidence supporting President Trump’s claim does not exist, studies continue to explore how hydroxychloroquine can be used against COVID-19. The University Of Minnesota has launched a clinical trial, seeking 1,500 people who have had household contact with coronavirus patients or healthcare workers that have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the past three days, who are both presently not ill or exhibiting symptoms.

The Lupus Foundation of America has issued a statement regarding the supply of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for lupus patients. The organization hopes that while manufacturers supply the drugs for research in treating COVID-19, they continue keeping stock, guaranteeing access to lupus patients with no alternatives.

The statement said, “We support efforts to fast track study of these drugs for COVID-19, but at the same time urge all stakeholders – patients, health care providers, industry, and government — to work together so that those with lupus and other conditions who rely on these drugs continue to have access to them while their potential use in COVID-19 is studied.”

-The Griot