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Hydroxychloroquine shortages due to COVID-19 causing strain for those dependent on the drug

The drug is proven to help treat lupus and malaria
Posted at 6:48 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 01:29:17-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — Hydroxychloroquine has been floating around as a possible treatment for COVID-19. The studies and data, however, have not yet been proven as a safe and effective treatment for the virus. The high demand for the drug is now creating a shortage for those who depend on it to treat other diseases.

If Anna Peterson isn't playing with her two little dogs or trying to find something fun to do during quarantine, the 13-year-old from Council Bluffs is busy taking care of her health. Three years ago when Anna was just 10-years-old, she was diagnosed with a life-altering disease.

"There's no way. This isn't a childhood disease. It must be wrong, must be something else," her mother Colleen Peterson said.

After months of testing, Anna was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that affects the joints, skin and other parts of the body. There is no cure, but the drug hydroxychloroquine helps treat her joint pain, breakouts and fever. She takes it everyday.

"She's been on it pretty much since she was first diagnosed," Peterson said.

Now the drug has been floating around as a possible treatment for COVID-19. But the research is not yet conclusive.

"The data are very, very scarce, the studies were very, very small and I don't believe that they were able to replicate some of the success in the first study," Nebraska Pharmacist Association vice president of Professional Affairs Marcia Mueting said.

The newfound interest in the drug has caused false hope and great demand for the drug, which also treats rheumatoid arthritis and malaria.

"I think that there's a lot of people that would like to have some at home just in case. But what we're actually seeing initially is a shortage for the people who have been taking hydroxychloroquine for it's FDA approved uses," Mueting said.

That shortage in Iowa, Nebraska and across the country can affect people who already depend on the drug. Anna was able to get her prescription refilled, but if people continue misusing the drug as a possible treatment or preventative measure for COVID-19, it will affect the lives of many.

"It would be pretty detrimental. I mean, she would get her flare ups again, her joint pain again, she'd have her fatigue again, her skin rashes," Peterson said.

Anna and her family are actively involved in the Lupus Foundation of America, Iowa Chapter and are hopeful Anna will remain healthy and strong.

Hydroxychloroquine is still being tested and misuse can cause severe side effects. The FDA is however supporting the use of the drug in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 for testing.