Worried about a hydroxychloroquine shortage as coronavirus trials begin? Here’s some advice

HOUSTON – One of the drugs that are showing promise to treat coronavirus is one that many Americans already use every day for other ailments. Now, many people are worried about a possible shortage.

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat conditions such as lupus and malaria. While this drug could play a role in treating coronavirus patients, there are many people who depend on it beyond the virus.

“I’m concerned about not being able to get my usual medications,” said Ionna Redmon.

Ionna is a former nurse and has been taking this drug for years to treat several autoimmune disorders. It’s the only thing that brings her relief. She scrambled to get her latest prescription and is terrified about a future shortage.

“We take it like vitamins and it’s never been an issue because it’s an obscure drug," Redmon explained. "It’s not going to be an obscure day, it’s going to be out there. That medication is going to run out real fast. I am concerned. I’m concerned about the price going up and I’m concerned about its availability.”

Wednesday, New York started doing hydroxychloroquine trials on coronavirus patients.

“The President is optimistic about these drugs and we are all optimistic that it could work,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York).

There is still no word on whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 use. As of Wednesday, CVS said it has an adequate supply on hand and the pharmacy company is taking all necessary steps to remain in stock. Customers for other pharmacies have reported shortages or at least delays in getting prescriptions refilled.

Advice for people who take hydroxychloroquine

The Arthritis Foundation released a list of suggestions for patients who may be worried about a drug shortage.

If you are due for a refill, order it from your pharmacy now.

If your refill is for 30 days, ask your doctor to write it for a 90-day supply.

If your pharmacy can’t fill a full 90-day prescription, see if you can take what is available now.

Try to refill even if it’s too soon. Some insurance companies are waiving the transaction block when a pharmacist tries to refill the prescription before the allowed date.

If the drug is out of stock, ask the pharmacist for help finding a refill.

Check with compounding pharmacies in your area.

Drug production is ramping up

At least two pharmaceutical companies have committed to ramping up production of hydroxychloroquine, which is expected to ease the supply problem starting in mid-to-late April. Another company that doesn’t usually sell in the United States, is donating a supply.

If you cannot get your hydroxychloroquine prescription filled, you can report it to the FDA at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov

Researchers are also working on a possible Coronavirus vaccine. KPRC 2 Health Reporter Haley Hernandez is always working to answer your top questions and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.