Demand for COVID-19 cure could impact some lupus patients

Posted at 10:05 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 23:39:11-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization so doctors can help treat the coronavirus using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

The anti-malaria drugs were touted by President Donald Trump, and some COVID-19 patients and small laboratory studies have shown the medicine to work and treating symptoms. However, there are no clinical proof of the drugs' benefits.

The new attention for hyrdroxchloroquine, also known by the brand name Plaquenil, has pushed the drug into high demand. The medicine is known to treat symptoms of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

"It will take months to learn if hydroxchloroquine is effective for COVID-19," said Bob Lobo, Director of Clinical Services at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "We are concerned about the availability of hydroxchloroquine for the patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus who rely on this medication."

The FDA says these drugs will be distributed to states for doctors to prescribe to adolescent and adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19, as a treatment when a clinical trial is not available.

"One of the things that we would recommend is not using hydroxchloroquine for patients who are well enough, even though they have COVID-19, but they’re well enough to stay as an outpatient," said Lobo.

Evidence does show it helps people like Tracy Rode with the Mid-South Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America.

"Our organization has written letters to the manufacturers of different varieties of hydroxchloroquine and chloroquine saying please help maintain supply," said Rode.

With the increase in popularity for the drug, the supply to get hydroxchloroquine is in high demand. That means some pharmacies may be out of stock, while others are offering lupus patients a 14 day refill instead of the usual 30.

A drug vital in keeping them healthy and even alive.

"We’re happy to give up our bottles of pills but we want to make sure that’s proven," said Rode.

Rode says it could take months before a clinical trial can determine if hyrdroxchloroquine is effected in treating COVID-19.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.