Kaiser Permanente will temporarily stop filling prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine for some patients in order to preserve the drug for “severely sick patients,” including those who have contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Hydroxychloroquine, which is sold under the brand name Plaquenil, is an anti-malaria drug that is also used to treat lupus. Over the weekend, it was touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19 by Donald Trump.
“HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” Trump tweeted on Saturday — quickly creating a high demand for hydroxychloroquine and an ensuing shortage.
The regional medical director of Quality and Clinical Analysis at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, Nancy Gin, told BuzzFeed News that there is a “real possibility” of running out of the drug if steps are not made to “mitigate the shortage.”
“As we face the real possibility of running out of the drug for everybody if we don’t take steps to mitigate the shortage, Kaiser Permanente, like other health care organizations across the country, has had to take steps to control the outflow of the medication to ensure access to severely sick patients, including both COVID-19 and those with acute lupus,” Gin told the outlet.
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Gin said that the drug can stay in the body for more than a month after it’s taken, and that Kaiser Permanente expects there to be plenty for every patient who needs it soon.
“Extensive experience and research show that hydroxychloroquine builds up in the body and continues to work for an average of 40 days even after the last dose is taken,” Gin said. “By then, we expect the drug manufacturers to have ramped up production to meet the increased demand. Until then, we are no longer refilling routine prescriptions to ensure we have adequate supply to care for our sickest patients.”
Kaiser Permanente did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
A 45-year-old woman in Los Angeles told BuzzFeed that when she tried to fill her prescription for hydroxychloroquine for her systemic lupus erythematosus, she was denied it.
In a message from Kaiser to the woman on Tuesday, the health care provider said it is “conserving the current supply for those who are critically ill with COVID-19,” according to a screenshot of the message obtained by BuzzFeed News.
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“We are working very hard every day doing everything we can to find ways to replenish this medication as soon as possible,” the message said. “During this time, you should continue to take the remaining pills you have on schedule unless otherwise instructed by your prescribing physician.”
Later in the message, it stated, “Thank you for the sacrifice you will be making for the sake of those who are critically ill; your sacrifice may actually save lives.”
“We appreciate your understanding, and you will be notified of any changes in the policy as …read more