Hydroxychloroquine prescriptions scaled back due to COVID-19, patients worried about supply

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HARTSELLE, Ala – As most of the U.S. continues to follow stay at home orders, those who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 are trying to make sure they have enough of their prescriptions to avoid leaving home for refills.

One prescription drug that appears to be becoming elusive to pharmacies of all sizes is Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, also used to treat lupus and arthritis.

Marcia Johnson of Hartselle has lupus, arthritis and other underlying conditions that make her vulnerable to COVID-19.

“I normally get a 90-day supply. They told me they could only give me a 14-day supply,” said Johnson after a recent refill trip to a Kroger pharmacy. “I asked the pharmacist, ‘What’s going on? Is the government gotten involved?’ She said she couldn’t tell me. All she could tell me was that’s all I can give you.”

Kroger provided a statement to WHNT News 19 saying:

“Kroger Pharmacists are advised to use their professional judgement when filling any prescription. Nationwide logistics delays have placed a strain on the medication supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We want to reassure patients that this medication is still being manufactured; the ability to get higher quantities of these medications into the pharmacy is limited at this time.”

Hydroxychloroquine has been linked to ongoing COVID-19 treatments. The FDA has not approved the drug for any mass treatment program against the virus.

“It’s scary. It’s really scary. This is something I’ve got to have,” Johnson said. She worries what the situation could be months down the line if the drug ends up becoming a solution for the world. At the end of the day, she needs it to prevent her pain.

Johnson said she was able to transfer her prescription to Gilchrist Pharmacy, an independent and much smaller pharmacy in Hartselle. They were able to give Johnson about a months supply. However, the owner said Hydroxychloroquine is hard to come by and the situation is fluid. The pharmacy said they have not heard any directives to build up supply or limit distribution from the FDA or any government channel.

President Donald Trump has championed the drug several times, despite pushback from the scientific and medical communities.

Several other large pharmacy chains have reportedly started cutting back prescription amounts for Hydroxychloroquine and other drugs as a result of logistical issues.

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