Hydroxychloroquine has been woman’s prescription for years, now it is scarce

President Trump touts coronavirus cure but those with other ailments desperate

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A study released Friday by the medical journal The Lancet shows that seriously ill COVID-19 patients who took hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous heart conditions.

And, as this news comes out, we are learning that the drug is becoming less accessible to patients who really need it.

Marilyn Gerace has been dealing with the auto-immune condition Sjogren’s syndrome for close to 15 years.

The drug hydroxychloroquine is the only medication that helps treat her condition which has no cure and includes joint pain, dry eyes and mouth.

"It helps mostly with inflammation," Gerace said.

The drug is critical to her daily life, but she says access to the drug has become challenging.

"I called to get my renewal and I was called back saying I could only get a 14-day supply."

Up until this point, she would always get a 90-day supply at her Publix pharmacy.

Publix spokesperson Maria Brouse wrote: “They are filling prescriptions for 14 pills of hydroxychloroquine unless it is a confirmed COVID-19 case. We continue to fill prescriptions for patients who were getting hydroxychloroquine prescribed previously with Publix as a maintenance drug. We are limiting new prescriptions.”

Jihan Saba, M.D., a Fort Lauderdale rheumatologist, said she started noticing sometime in March that her patients were not able to get their medication on time or they were getting shorter supplies.

“If you’re a lupus patient, you need to be on this drug,” Saba said. "It has an extremely vital role specifically in lupus patients. It’s almost like their lifeline medication.”

Saba said the drug increases a patient’s life span and reduces their chances of other complications. Stopping the medication for only two weeks is dangerous.

Hydroxychloroquine has become front and center after President Donald Trump repeatedly touted the drug as a potential coronavirus cure. No studies have been published on the use of the anti-malarial drug to prevent COVID-19.

“We consider in our rheumatic patients, hydroxychloroquine to be our safest drug out there," Saba said.

Because of that, she says access to the drug should not be restricted to these patients..

After placing some calls to Publix pharmacies, Local 10 got Marilyn a 30-day prescription, but she is fearful that this is happening to other patients that need the drug, too.

The study in the Lancet looked at the hospital outcomes of 96,032 hospitalized patients, 14,888 of whom got some form of the antimalarial treatments chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine over the course of four months, according to The Business Insider.

The patients came from 671 hospitals from six continents, and the study was led by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Though it was not a randomized controlled trial, it’s the largest study of its kind in patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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