Lupus patients across the US face shortages of ‘life-saving’ drug

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    A life-saving lupus drug is in short supply after President Donald Trump touted its generic version as a cure for the novel coronavirus.

    Plaquenil has been used for years as a treatment for lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes flare-ups, pain and swelling the joints and fatigue.

    But the drug, known as chloroquine or its analog hydroxychloroquine, have been called ‘game changers’ by the president during press conferences and on Twitter. 

    Now, pharmacies in states across the US tell NBC News that they are back-ordered and lupus sufferers worry they won’t be able to easily access treatment. 

    Recently, Lieberman (pictured) called her pharmacy and was told the medication is on backorder

    Bonnie Lieberman, 46 (left and right), from Sunnyvale, California, has lupus and has been taking a drug named Plaquenil to treat it. Recently, she called her pharmacy and was told the medication is on backorder.

    It comes after President Donald Trump said hydroxychloroquine, the brand name of Plaquenil (pictured), could be a 'game-changer' for treating coronavirus

    It comes after President Donald Trump said hydroxychloroquine, the brand name of Plaquenil (pictured), could be a ‘game-changer’ for treating coronavirus

    Preschool teacher Bonnie Lieberman, from California, told NBC News that she has been using Plaquenil for about 30 years.

    But when she called her pharmacy to check if her new prescription was available to be picked-up, she was told they were out.  

    ‘This drug is lifesaving for me because it helps me function,’ Lieberman, 46, told the news network.

    ‘I physically don’t have any medication. It’s back-ordered everywhere.’ 

    It comes just days after President Trump told reporters on Thursday that the drug, known by its generic name of hydroxychloroquine, was a possible treatment for coronavirus.

    He then repeated the claims on Twitter.

    ‘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! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents),’ he wrote on Saturday.  

    The study Trump refers to comes from Marseille, France, in which 30 patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine for 10 days combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic.

    Although very small, the study ‘showed a significant reduction of the viral carriage’ after the six days and ‘much lower average carrying duration’ compared to patients who received other treatments. 

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    Trump has referenced a small-scale French study found that the drug could reduce the duration of the illness. Pictured: Trump  participates in a news briefing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force, March 23

    Doctors have warned against taking the drug without guidance, because it could lead to severe complications or death

    Doctors have warned against taking the drug without guidance, because it could lead to severe complications or death

    Physicians have warned Americans to consult with her primary care doctor before taking chloroquine because it could lead to serious complications or even death.

    On Monday, a man in Arizona died and his wife was hospitalized after taking a form of chloroquine used to treat aquariums died. 

    Despite this, NBC News said it contacted 12 pharmacies last week in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. 

    All of them said they didn’t have the drug in stock and, in fact, said it was back-ordered. 

    ‘We were starting to see some reports of supply problems earlier as hospitals started purchasing to have on hand for possible inpatient treatment/clinical trials,’  Erin Fox, senior director of drug information at University of Utah Health, told NBC News.  

    ‘However…continuing remarks are driving people to start hoarding this product.’ 

    Lieberman said she is now struggling to find the medication and said that it is ‘irresponsible’ for people to hoard it. 

    ‘I hope they find something that helps people, but it’s more that it’s an unfounded thing at this point,’ she said.

    In the US, there are more than 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 600 deaths. 

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