CHICAGO (CBS) — Alarming claims have surfaced from a top medical group that doctors are over-prescribing and stashing away the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Monday night, there is no proven treatment for COVID-19, but there are drugs being tested that have shown some early promise. However, more testing is needed.
But that early promise has led to a shortage, leaving those who already depend on these drugs for existing health conditions concerned about getting the drugs they rely upon.
For a woman we spoke with Monday who has been taking one of these drugs for over a decade, she was recently told that her normal refill will be reduced = and she is concerned what might be next.
“Absolutely, I worry I’m not going to have it when I need it,” said Darla Steffes.
Steffes lives in Crest Hill. She takes four hydroxychloroquine pills a day to treat her rheumatoid arthritis.
“It helps my joints being able to move,” Steffes said.
She has done so for over a decade. The medication also is approved for lupus and malaria.
“They will cut it back to a 30-day supply instead of a 90-day supply,” Steffes said.
Steffes’ prescription is being cut down. That is what a letter from her pharmacy recently told her, due to a shortage of the drug
“This isn’t legitimate medical practice,” said Garth Reynolds, executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association. “This is true selfish hoarding, and not really in the best interests of what we took our oaths for, which is to protect our patients.
Reynolds said the shortage is in part due to physicians’ sketchy self-prescribing, or writing prescriptions for friends.
“With the possible evidence and suggestion that hydroxychloroquine it may be a possible agent for treatment of COVID-19, the rush to hoard the medication, to be able to obtain the medication, and people using it improperly for prevention, has caused this damage to patients who legitimately need it,” Reynolds said.
President Donald Trump has been touting the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine for fighting COVID-19.
The drug has showed some early anecdotal success in treating COVID-19, but extensive testing is still needed. The Food and Drug Administration has approved it for emergency use only.
On Sunday, President Trump stopped National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci from answering questions about hydroxychloroquine.
But Fauci previously said of the drug on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” “The data at best is suggestive.”
“It’s a maybe, and I get that. Everybody wants a cure, and they want something that might help,” Steffes said. “But don’t hoard it all. Let everybody have a chance to get it.”
Hydroxychloroquine is still being studied. Several major hospitals in Chicago, including Rush University Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, are undertaking studies of their own with other drugs that could be treatments for COVID-19.