What to Know About Hydroxycholorquine & Chloroquine Shortage
Within the last week, there have been announcements of small studies that have found hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and chloroquine may help cure symptoms and reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This has since caused a shortage of the drugs to occur which has negatively impacted the lupus community because those medications are commonly used in their treatment. These two medications are important to lupus patients because for many of them, there are no alternatives. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine help to reduce inflammation that could otherwise lead to pain, disability, organ damage, and other serious illnesses. The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) and the Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) have both recently released statements about their responses to the issue at hand.
Lupus Foundation of America (LFA)
The LFA has stated that they support the continuation of research for COVID-19 but are urging everyone to work to keep the drugs accessible to lupus patients and others who need it.
“An increase in lupus-related disease activity not only significantly impairs the health and quality of life of people with lupus but will also place further strain on health care providers and systems in a time of crisis”, (LFA 2020).
The Foundation is encouraging manufacturers to increase production and supply as long as it’s not only to respond to COVID-19, but also meet the needs of lupus patients. They have submitted a letter to the Congressional Leadership and Administration calling for the implementation of needed patient protections.
Lupus Research Alliance (LRA)
The LRA urged the FDA to address the shortages and have been successful in their efforts. Within the last few days, the FDA has committed to preserve the supply of hydroxychloroquine for patients already taking it. There has also been an increase in manufacturing of the drugs, and donations made by several pharmaceutical companies.
The LRA also announced they are sponsoring a new initiative called the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance. It is a group led by rheumatologists who are uniting patients and rheumatologists worldwide to respond to the pandemic. The group created a secure international data registry called the COVID-19 Rheumatology Registry which is designed to allow healthcare providers to share their experiences in treating cases of people with rheumatologic conditions who develop COVID-19. There is also a patient-entered registry component currently being developed.
“We are doing everything in our power to prevent a Plaquenil shortage from impacting the care of people with lupus, but I also want to allay the fears we are hearing from people with lupus”, said LRA President and CEO Ken Farber. The LRA wants to reassure people that not taking Plaquenil or lowering the dosage for a short period of time is not a cause for alarm. “Many pharmacies have banded together to guarantee a Plaquenil supply to patients with proof by their rheumatologist that they have these conditions and are currently on the drug”, said renowned lupus specialist Daniel J. Wallace, MD, FACP, MACR, Associate Director, Rheumatology Fellowship Program, David Geffen School of Medicine Center at UCLA in affiliation with Attune Health and LRA Board of Directors member.
Both the LRA and LFA are continuing to monitor the situation and communicate with top health professionals to provide the most up-to-date information and work to ensure shortages do not continue.
Lupus Research Alliance. 2020. MARCH 26 STATEMENT: Lupus Research Alliance Puts Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine) Shortage into Perspective for Lupus Community.
Lupus Foundation of America. 2020. Statement: Lupus Foundation of America Urges Manufacturers of Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine to Ensure Supply to Treat Lupus