According to the New York Times, the demand for anti-malarial drugs to treat Covid-19 soared so many patients with chronic diseases did not have drugs.
Michelle Weaver considers Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to fight malaria, as a panacea. Her daughter, Kaitlyn, 13, suffers from juvenile idiopathic arthritis and weakened immune system. The illness caused Kaitlyn’s intense joint pain, being confined to a bed and only accessible by wheelchair.
But since Kaitlyn started using Hydroxychloroquine in January, the pain disappeared and she was able to walk on her own.
However, when Ms. Weaver extended the prescription in March, the pharmacist announced that Hydroxychloroquine was out of stock. Demand for Hydroxychloroquine soared after US President Donald Trump said the drug could help treat Covid-19 patients at a White House meeting on March 19.
Ms. Weaver has contacted more than 10 pharmacies, but to no avail. Eventually, she bought an extra bottle from a pharmacy more than 160 km away from the property. Now Ms. Weaver is worried that her daughter will not have any medicine after using up the available medicine.
In addition to Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug Chloroquine has also been advertised as an effective treatment for patients with Covid-19 infection. These drugs have long been used to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Now, many patients are struggling because of supply shortages.
According to a survey of 58,000 pharmacies published by the medical journal JAMA on May 29, in mid-March, the number of short-term prescriptions increased by 2,000% from 2,208 applications last year to 45,858 this year.
Demand continued to increase sharply until April. From mid-February to the end of April, the number of prescriptions for Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine increased by 500,000 from the same period last year. According to the New York Times, the number of prescriptions has skyrocketed in part because doctors prescribe themselves and their families.
A number of studies have shown that patients with Covid-19 who are exposed to the drug are at high risk for cardiovascular problems, and even die. The new Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety warning, which should only be used in clinical trials or in hospitals.
Cannot buy medicine
According to a new study by Dr. Warraich and colleagues, prescriptions for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, acid reflux, thyroid disorders and depression skyrocketed in the first half of March. For example, sales of Atorvastatin help reduce cholesterol by 30% in mid-March and by nearly 10% in late April compared to the same period in 2019.
According to Dr. Warraich, it is likely that doctors and patients have stockpiled medicines to prepare for the pandemic. However, the fact that hospitals and clinics focus resources on patients with Covid-19 infection has reduced the number of new users of these drugs, resulting in a sharp drop in prescriptions in late March and April.
In the opposite direction, sales of Amoxicillin and Vicodin decreased sharply in March and April. Dr. Warraich said that this was the cause of the decline in the number of dentist visits and medical procedures. elective.
In the past few months, the number of antibiotic users has decreased because patients with cold or flu symptoms may have suspected Covid-19 infection. In addition, patients do not dare to see a doctor because of concerns about the possibility of transmission of the virus.
For Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine, to help reduce demand, a number of states in the US have issued new and more stringent regulations. For example, doctors are prescribed only for cases that can prove that medication is used for treatment.
Organizations like the American Arthritis Foundation and the Lupus Foundation also send letters to the White House, the US Congress, the FDA and many other agencies offering guarantees to patients with chronic illnesses that can buy medication.
Since 2005, Maureen Stewart has been using Hydroxychloroquine to treat lupus. But now, the local pharmacy in Pittsburgh told her they were having supply chain problems and needed two different factories to complete Ms. Maureen’s prescription.
Without drugs, her joints became inflamed, leading to difficulties in walking. It is expected that Ms. Maureen will receive orders only in June. “I was very worried and didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t get the medicine,” she despaired.