Drug Touted as Possible Coronavirus Treatment in Short Supply for North Texans With Autoimmune Disease

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Every day since Christmas morning 2017, 11-year-old Meredith Salazar has taken Plaquenil to treat lupus.

“If I didn’t take it, I could go into organ damage and organ failure. A lot of really bad things could happen, so we don’t want to test that,” said Meredith Salazar.

But a couple of weeks ago, her mom Brittany got word though the Lupus community that there could soon be a rush on the drug. Hydroxychloroquine, the drug’s generic name, is being tested in combination with an antibiotic as a possible treatment for COVID19.

“She’s always had this, so we haven’t experienced the ‘what if she doesn’t have it.’ What would her body do, and how would she react? And that is a fear, because her one lupus flare she did have, I mean, she was in the ICU. I mean, she was sick. She was really sick,” said Brittany Salazar.

With just a week and a half supply left of Meredith’s medicine, Brittany spent over an hour on the phone with their insurance company trying to get an early refill.

When that didn’t work, she rushed to the pharmacy to pay for a month’s worth out of pocket.

Jill Schirru wasn’t as lucky.

As news of clinical trials have spread along with a vote of confidence from President Donald Trump via Twitter, pharmacies don't even know when their next shipment will arrive.

Her doctor prescribed her hydroxychloroquine two years ago to treat her mixed connective tissue disorder.

With less than two weeks of pills left, she’s called about a dozen pharmacies around the DFW area.

“Every time I was told the same thing that they were out of stock. It was on backorder, and they had no idea when any more would be coming back into stock,” said Schirru.

In the last few days, she’s found it through an online pharmacy. But though she’s placed an order, they’ve already warned her they’re taking in 1,000 faxed prescriptions each hour.

It’s left Schirru with no guarantee.

“It’s stressful, a bit of anxiety and stress, but I’m just trying to take it in stride. It’s out of our hands right now, so we’re just trying to do everything we can and hope that we found it,” said Schirru.

Among the pharmacies she checked was Dallas’ Dougherty’s Pharmacy where a pharmacist told NBC5 that hydroxychloroquine has been back-ordered for two weeks.

He said they saw an influx of doctors prescribing it for themselves, their staffs and their families until the Texas State Board of Pharmacy released new rules.

The limitations require a written diagnosis from the prescriber consistent with evidence for the drug’s use. It also limits all new patients to a 14-day supply and it requires a new prescription for refills.

“If this medication has the potential to help people to treat coronavirus, I would want them to be able to have access to it, of course. It’s just more the idea that it’s being prescribed and filled and kept by people who have no use for it right now,” said Schirru.

Infectious disease experts have said more studies are needed to determine whether the drug can actually be effective in the fight against COVID19.

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