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Woman with Lupus denied vital drug being used to treat COVID-19

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OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Drugs now being used to treat coronavirus are becoming difficult for people with other health issues to obtain.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are commonly used to treat lupus but there’s now a shortage for those patients.

This woman says she’s been using the drug to treat her lupus for over 10 years.

She right now has a limited supply but within the next week it will run out, eventually forcing her to search for ineffective alternatives.

Drugs championed by President Trump and now widely authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus are becoming hard to access for other patients who rely on them.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, both well known for treating lupus have now become the top drugs for treating hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

“It just seems like we shouldn’t have to fight for it but unfortunately that’s the way it’s going to be,” Billye Brown said.

Billye Brown has been living with discoid lupus for 15 years.

This condition affects her skin, causing severe rashes on her face and hair loss.

Brown uses hydroxychloroquine also known by its brand name plaquenil to keep the lupus symptoms from worsening.

She’s now down to a week’s supply.

“So what I’ve done just to extend that is to cut the pill in half,” Brown said. 

Brown is a patient of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.

She was told by her pharmacy she will not be able to refill her prescription because there is a shortage of the drug.

This has been troubling for brown because lupus affects her immune system making her high risk for contracting coronavirus.

She’s also suspect on hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness in treating coronavirus. 

The drug has been proven to treat lupus but evidence that it’s effective at treating COVID-19 has been limited.

“It just seems like checkers with the decisions and gambling on who gets the medication,” Brown said. 

In a statement to KRON4 News, Kaiser Permanente acknowledged a shortage of the drugs and said: 

“We are doing all we can to continue filling all current prescriptions for patients with lupus.”

Kaiser says they expect the drug manufacturers to ramp up production to meet the increased demand.

Brown meanwhile is left to hope.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get there where we won’t have to gamble with one disease over another,” Brown said.

Brown says as alternatives she left using ineffective topicals.

She’s notice cutting the pills in half has not been as effective in preventing skin outbreaks.

For now she’s just being extra cautious with her health.

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