COVID-19, Plaquenil and Lupus

We at Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus are monitoring the ever-changing news concerning the use of the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) for treating the COVID-19 virus during the current global pandemic.

Plaquenil, is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for lupus.  It is primarily used in the prevention and treatment of malaria, but as an immunosuppressant, it helps with lupus flares and alleviates symptoms, such as pain and joint swelling.  It has become an important, daily treatment for many with mild to moderate forms of lupus.

Some healthcare practitioners have been prescribing Plaquenil “off label” for their patients, and this has created shortages in a few areas of the country.  So, we are working with national lupus associations, such as the Lupus Research Alliance, and the Lupus Foundation of America to advocate for the sufficient supply of Plaquenil for those in the lupus community who need it.  So far, the results have been very positive with the FDA Commissioner, Dr. David Hahn, promising that, “We will take all steps to ensure chloroquine remains available for patients who take it to treat severe and life-threatening illnesses such as lupus.”

We are also working with our allies in the pharmaceutical industry to support these efforts to ensure that each person with lupus will have all the medications they need.

At this time, this is what we know:

  1. The FDA has not yet approved either antimalarial drug for treating COVID-19, and the few medical studies that have investigated them, have been very small (26 people or fewer) and are based upon largely anecdotal evidence.
  2. The US Food and Drug Administration has accelerated testing hydroxychloroquine for safety and efficacy in treating COVID-19, but this will still take some time.
  3. Several pharmaceutical companies have agreed to ramp up production of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, including Novartis, Teva, Mylan N.V. and Bayer.

As always, ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your use of any medication, and join us in advocating for your access to a reliable supply of those medications.

Regarding the COVID-19 crisis, continue to observe the recommendations and restrictions of your local and state healthcare authorities and follow the recommendations and updates of the CDC and the World Health Organization.

Remember, you are not alone; we are here to help!

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