Excitement around hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 causes challenges for rheumatology

2 Apr, 2020

Shortage of doloquine in pharmacies

Excitement about a potential new treatment for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic currently engulfing the world is causing problems for patients with arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), who routinely use the drug to control their symptoms. 

Despite the absence of strong evidence about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19, some people are already attempting to self-medicate with the drug, with disastrous consequences. Hydroxychloroquine can have dangerous side-effects if the dose is not carefully controlled, and cases of chloroquine poisoning have been reported in Nigeria and the USA.

Additionally, the sudden interest in hydroxychloroquine has led to reports of shortages for patients who rely on the drug to treat their autoimmune disease. Kaiser Permanente, a major health-care network in the USA, is no longer filling routine prescriptions for chloroquine.

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