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Hydroxychloroquine Shortage During COVID-19

Jan 12, 2021 4:42 pm

According to a recent report in Annals of Rheumatic Disease, public enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) created significant access issues for rheumatic patients in the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite public, political and quasi research evidence supporting the use of HCQ in COVID-19, a plethora of trials and research has shown its lack of efficacy in COVID-19 management, but in doing so created a shortfall on HCQ access for our lupus and arthritis patients.

An electronic survey to the 42 Systemic Lupus Erythematosus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) members affiliated with SLE referral centres ( assessed access to HCQ shortages during the pandemic.

With a responses rate if 74% from 13 of the 15 countries (Europe 29%, USA 26% and Canada 23%), over half (55%) reported either previous (39%) or current (16%) HCQ shortages among patients with SLE during the pandemic.

Two-thirds of SLICC member were contacted by patients and pharmacies regarding difficulties accessing HCQ. This was estimated to affect 40 (IQR 15–90) patients per physician or about 15% of their SLE populations. Seven physicians noted that shortages resolved were short-lived and resolved within 2–8 weeks. No shortages were noted in Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, and South Korea.

Reasons for HCQ shortages, included diversion of HCQ to hospitals, for clinical trials or off-label empiric prescribing for COVID-19. Many (74%) were involved in system-level measures taken to preserve HCQ access for SLE patients.

HCQ access issues for SLE patients during the COVID-19 pandemic should instruct future planning efforts to avoid future shortages of HCQ and like medications.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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