In recent news, President Trump announced he is taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in order to ward off COVID-19, as two White House staffers have contracted the virus over the past few weeks. His announcement caused an uproar among chronically ill patients everywhere, many of whom depend on hydroxychloroquine to manage their symptoms and are already facing a shortage of the medication.
I happened to catch wind of this while scrolling through social media. As a lupus patient myself who depends on hydroxychloroquine, the news literally stopped me in my tracks. Then I felt overwhelming rage.
Just a few weeks ago, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning on its website cautioning against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems. The warning also stated the drug hasn’t been shown to be effective in treatment/prevention of the virus either.
Does President Trump not understand the ramifications of his dangerous statements for those of us who use the medication daily for conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis? Apparently not. His brazen disregard for the facts may encourage others to go to their doctors and demand this medication, making it even more difficult for people like me to get the medication I need.
Months ago, when Trump first hinted this drug was going to be a “game changer” in the fight against the virus, it became very difficult for chronically ill patients to access our medication. Some of us even had to bring entire medical records to pharmacies to prove it medically necessary to be on hydroxychloroquine because doctors were writing this prescription for their friends and family members “just in case” they contracted COVID-19.
And now, with this new information in the press, despite many medical professionals speaking out against the President being on the course of treatment, I can’t help but think we are back where we were two months ago, risking a shortage of this life-saving drug for us autoimmune patients. We may find ourselves having to prove we are worthy of the medication we have been taking for years.
After hearing Trump’s announcement, I immediately called my pharmacy to discuss what would happen to my prescription. I expressed my concern and they said given what happened a few months ago, they have been protecting their supply for patients who have been on the therapy for years, and will not accept any new patients with short-term prescriptions.
This eased my mind slightly, but made me wonder, What about other lupies whose pharmacies are not doing that? What about those who have been asked to stop taking their medication to “sacrifice” for COVID-19 patients? Don’t we matter? Yes, we do. This is why we have to continue to be vocal. There are online pharmacies willing to help us get our meds, and some doctors are going above and beyond to ensure we patients are getting the medications we need. We have to keep fighting.