Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis patients experience issues finding hydroxychloroquine refills
BATON ROUGE - This week, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced the state has secured more pharmaceutical drugs like Hydroxychloroquine needed in the fight against the coronavirus. Plaquenil is the brand name for Hydroxychloroquine and some people who have been taking the drug for years say they're having trouble refilling prescriptions.
Becky Gremillion lives in Ferriday, Louisiana and has been taking Plaquenil since 2013 for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. She says she wouldn't want to experience life without it.
"I have not been without it since," Gremillion said.
Recently, it was a reality she feared she'd have to face. When she had 15 pills left, she contacted her pharmacist.
"We checked with our pharmacist and he said he didn't have it at the time," Gremillion said. "Then he called us back the next day or so and said he was not going to be able to get it."
After making more calls, she contacted a doctor in Baton Rouge who was able to track some down. Dr. Angele Bourg at the Baton Rouge Clinic says being able to fill a prescription for Plaquenil is the number one concern from her patients. She says she's heard stories of pharmacies holding the drug for COVID-19 patients, or supplies are being depleted very quickly.
"As if there isn't enough anxiety already their anxiety is through the roof," Bourg said.
Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat and prevent malaria. It also helps with skin rashes and joint pain. For people living with lupus, it can be life-saving.
"It prevents lupus from attacking the major organs," Bourg said.
It's why patients who need it are going to be in trouble if they don't have access to the supply.
Last week, AG Landry announced the donation of 400,000 Hydroxychloroquine tablets to Louisiana by Amneal Pharmaceuticals. Monday, the state learned more is on the way. The demand for the drug around the world is high, but the hope is that the new supply in Louisiana will relieve the stress on the demand for patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are experiencing.
"There are people that do need it so don't just take it for prevention or whatever," Gremillion said.
Dr. Bourg says if a patient is having trouble refilling their prescription for Plaquenil, contact your physician and stay in touch with your pharmacist.