Doctors say for some there is another health crisis rising out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those with an autoimmune disease like lupus could have a higher risk of death if they get the coronavirus and now the very medicine that helps manage their symptoms is being put in jeopardy by the same virus.
“There are people with lupus that will die without this," says Rebecca Humes, a lupus patient.
Hydroxychloroquine is a medication for those with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, and other autoimmune diseases.
But after a French study was published last week, some are using it to fight the new coronavirus.
Dr. Alfred Kim, a rheumatologist, says, “Now, with that recent data, many physicians and healthcare providers have been using this to treat COVID-19 and worse yet have been giving it to patient to prevent COVID-19. The prevention part, there’s no data to demonstrate that works.”
Some healthcare professionals argue the study was flawed.
But with no real defined cure on the market, some are turning to the drug anyway.
“The national supply chain had dwindled to nearly nothing so the situation has clearly gotten worse over the weekend because yesterday they were getting numerous calls from patients saying they can’t get their hydroxychloroquine anymore,” said Kim.
“I spoke with my pharmacist and he said the hoarding has begun. Right now, he has three lupus patients not including me he owes 200 tablets to," said Humes.
And before the supply can catch up to the rising demand, the ramifications could be serious even deadly for those that really need Hydroxychloroquine.
“By definition autoimmune patients are high risk. If they have to look for the medicine at various pharmacies that could increase the risk of exposure in acquiring COVID-19. Of course, that’s the population were most fearful of contracting it and subsequently fighting it,” said Kim.
“Without this drug, my Lupus will take off. In my case, it can cause brain bleeds, pulmonary embolism and other symptoms. I’ve had all of that," says Humes.
Doctors say that Express Scripts is working with manufacturers to increase supply.
If you’re having trouble finding your medication, they say you may have better luck if you do it by mail, but eventually, local pharmacies should get it back in stock though no telling how soon that could happen.