Coronavirus may be treated with malaria drug BUT could trigger disastrous shortage

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued emergency use authorisation for hydroxychloroquine to treat patients hospitalised with COVID-19. This comes as sufferers of autoimmune conditions have complained of not being able to get their normal prescription of the drug, particularly in the United States.

The healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente in the US have said that they face the possibility of running out of the drug, which is a lifeline to tens of thousands of people.

The Lupus Foundation of America has written to Congress and is fighting on behalf of Lupus patients to ensure there is not an issue with the drug supply.

The drug is also widely taken in the UK by people suffering from autoimmune conditions, including Sjogren’s Syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis.

It relieves joint pain and can enable women to have safer pregnancies by reducing the likelihood of foetal heart block.

Some people suffering from autoimmune conditions where they rely on these drugs for their ongoing pain to be relieved have been asked to reduce their dose so they are not short.

Those impacted have taken to Facebook groups to vent their frustration.

One person with an autoimmune condition said: “I was denied a prescription refill. I was told to start taking it every other day or every three days.

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“Hopefully I won’t get any flareups.”

The Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation has said: “The goal is to work towards increasing supply of hydroxychloroquine, ensure no price gauging happens as well as ensure that refills for current autoimmune patients is a top priority.”

Writing on a forum for people with Sjogren’s Syndrome in the US, one person said: “Many people will require medical attention without their medicine.

“That will overburden our already taxed medical facilities.”

Novartis Pharmaceuticals has announced they are increasing production of the drug and will be donating 130 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the COVID-19 response.


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Autoimmune sufferer, Cory Martin, wrote on CNN: “It’s easy to forget about those of us who live with this often-invisible illness because our faces aren’t out there.

“Stories of our disease don’t haunt the public on a daily basis as is the case currently with COVID-19.

“Without hydroxychloroquine, I would certainly slip back into the far worse state that I was in before I was diagnosed with lupus.

“It was a state that not only had me fatigued but also riddled with pain.

“My joints ached. My bones hurt so deeply that I wanted to crawl out of my own skin.

“My lungs were inflamed, struck with pleurisy that made breathing painful.

“I became out of breath walking from one room to the next. Changing clothes and talking on the phone left me breathless. I lost my ability to exercise.”

President Trump tweeted last week: “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You!”

One small French study has shown that the drug can slow infections of coronavirus by blocking it from entering cells in the body.

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