CHICAGO — The FDA has listed the drug Hydroxychloroquine as being “in shortage” as President Trump touted it as a potential treatment for COVID-19 without evidence that it works.
That drug is currently used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. And the shortage is causing worry for people with those ailments.
Pharmacies across the country and in Illinois have been filling prescriptions from doctors, dentists and even veterinarians for the drug apparently seeking to use it a preventive measure against COVID-19.
But that has left the people who actually need it worried about the shortage.
Chicago actress Brittany Flynn is usually performing comedy on stage at the Annoyance Theater or the Second City’s Etc. stage.
But since the Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order went into effect, all theaters have closed and the Uptown resident has been out of work.
“I’ve already fallen behind,” she said. “I’m worried about getting kicked off my health care because I can’t pay my premium.”
It is a major problem, because she also has lupus, a long term autoimmune disease that runs in her family.
“A lot of my family has lupus,” she said. “My mom has it. Her sister has it. My sister has it. My cousin has it. It runs very prevalently in my family.”
The drug hydroxychloroquine is used to treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and malaria but Trump is promoting it as a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients.
Initial tests showed some hope, but it has not been proven to work in clinical trials. It is a grave concern to Dr. Anthony Fauci who was asked about it and was cut off by the president before he could answer.
Experts said the push to treat COVID-19 patients with the drug has led to a national shortage.
Garth Reynolds is the executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association.
“This is a major concern because of the efforts of pharmacies are trying to preserve enough quantities for their current patients so they do not run out,” he said. “There is definitely not enough clinical evidence at this point to say that it should be used for the treatment of COVID-19.”
And the situation is the farthest thing from comedy for a woman who’s used to making people laugh.
“It’s not a laughing matter. It’s a very serious issue,” she said. “When it starts to effect people who already have a condition, a preexisting condition, getting the supplies they need to treat their medical issues – that’s when it becomes a huge problem.”
The nation’s largest pharmacies CVS and Walgreens have told their pharmacists to use their professional judgment in filling these prescriptions. Walgreens is reportedly placing a 14-day limit on the amount of the drug.