Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has improved the quality of life for the millions who suffer from lupus, is under the watchful eye of lupus patients and advocates, after Trump irresponsibly touted the drug as a possible coronavirus treatment.
Lupus is a systemic inflammatory condition that attacks your tissue and vital organs, causing chronic and severe pain. On Monday ProPublica raised the question of what a shortage would mean for those who suffer from Lupus. But it raises the most questions for underserved communities who already suffer health aversions in great quantities.
A national shortage will largely affect Black populations, as studies have proven that our communities are disproportionately affected by lupus. “It is not known why lupus is more common in African-Americans. Some scientists think that it is related to genes, but we know that hormones and environmental factors play a role in who develops lupus,” according to the American Lupus Foundation (LFA).
But Black women in particular will bear much of the brunt if the drug goes suffers a shortage. “As many as 1 in 250 African-American women will develop lupus,” according to the LFA. Black women are also prone to develop the chronic disease at a young age.
So when Trump tweeted his millions of followers last week that hydroxycholroquine and azithormycin when taken together could serve as a potential treatment, it caused a drove of panicked people to hoard large quantities of the drug, which can only be purchased with a prescription.
Hoarding the drug ignores the needs of those suffering with lupus and the harsh reality that if an immunodeficient person comes in contact with the virus, results could prove deadly.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who also serves on Trump’s coronavirus task force, has pushed the need for clinical trials to find a cure. However, neither the FDA nor the CDC have marked hydroxychloroquine as an approved treatment. Some states like New York have announced the backing of trials involving hydroxychloroquine, and other drugs used to fight malaria.
A recent NBC News report discovered that several people who suffer from Lupus have had difficulty with refilling their prescriptions refilled.
Bonnie Lieberman, a 30-year-old woman interviewed by NBC, told the outlet that she has reduced to taking a half-dose of prescription in fear that she will run out.
While national drug store chains like CVS promised to evade the shortage, NBC News found that many locations are out of supply.
“With the very limited information that was given in that announcement, it caused a lot of panic among people and people started to stockpile the drug that don’t even need it,” Dr. Elizabeth Volkmann, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at UCLA told NBC News.
Several voices on social media have echoed the dangers of the supply shortage, and are taking aim at doctors who are abusing their power to feed the frenzy.
According to NBC News, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Mylan Inc., say they have ramped up production of the drug, but whether or not those will be sent to hospitals or pharmacies dealing with the coronavirus remains unknown, according to NBC.
While the situation is ongoing, the LFA has vowed to “take steps that ensure people with lupus will be protected from a disruption in access to critical medications,” but time for many of those who have lupus, is of the essence.