- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2020

More than a third of people with lupus have struggled to fill their prescriptions of hydroxychloroquine, a drug largely touted by President Trump, during the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey found.

Shortages of the drug in March and April occurred as media outlets and Mr. Trump reported possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine in treating or preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The survey, conducted by the Lupus Research Alliance, found that participants had been taking hydroxychloroquine for an average of 11.4 years and that 31% of respondents had issues getting refills. Respondents also reported not being able to take the full dose of the drug or splitting doses. Some said they were unable to get their prescriptions filled because the drugs were not in supply.

One patient said she was able to fill her prescription after three weeks of calling different pharmacies. Another said her physician advised her to halve her regular dose until the supply shortage passed.

The survey included 334 people in the U.S. with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects millions worldwide. The survey collected responses from participants from 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, between March 1 and May 18.

Last month, Mr. Trump claimed to be taking hydroxychloroquine briefly as a preventative measure.

There are some clinical trials of the drug underway. On Wednesday, World Health Organization announced it would resume research of the anti-malarial drug in a global study of potential coronavirus treatments after temporarily halting it last week out of safety concerns.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that hydroxychloroquine can cause serious heart rhythm problems for coronavirus patients. The agency advised the drug only be taken within a hospital setting or for a clinical trial.

There is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19 although numerous trials of different drugs are in the works.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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