Oklahoma's Coronavirus Outbreak Could Affect Drug Availability For People With Autoimmune Diseases

Wednesday, March 25th 2020, 6:09 pm
By: Kristen Weaver

A reported shortage in drugs mentioned to help with COVID-19 is causing some anxiety for people with autoimmune diseases that really need the drugs.

Nancy Shively said she goes to a pharmacy in Skiatook to get hydroxychloroquine for her autoimmune disease, but she said she’s afraid of a shortage in the drug after reports it could be a possible treatment to help patients with COVID-19.

"I was like wait a minute, I know that drug, I ran and got my pill bottle," Shively said.

That drug, Hydroxychloroquine, is one Shively has been taking for 20 years.

It’s prescribed for Lupus, rheumatoid Arthritis and malaria, and for Sjogren’s Syndrome, which Shively has.

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It's an autoimmune disorder. Shively said medicine helps with many symptoms.

"It helps with fatigue, joint and muscular pain those symptoms can flare up," she said.

Last week, President Trump announced it was one of two drugs that health leaders are testing as a possibility to treat COVID-19. That led others to buy the drug.

Shively said she was able to refill her prescription just in time.

Because Wednesday, she said her pharmacist at Kendall’s in Skiatook told her the drug was in high demand.

“He said all 5 wholesalers are on back order with it," she said.

Walgreens and CVS pharmacies both issued guidelines on the drug to make sure it remains in stock for people in need.

The Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information also warns taking these drugs without a prescription is risk and can cause blindness or heart problems.

Shively worries what will happen to people like her who are already have compromised immune systems if others continue to stockpile it.

“It is scary to think you can’t get it when you need it and it makes me really angry it's people that are hoarding it," Shively said.

Federal health officials say they are testing the drugs but don’t know yet how effective they’ll be against COVID-19.

Governor Stitt's executive order signed Sunday said prescriptions for the drug had to have a written diagnosis of why they were prescribing it, limits people to a 14 day supply unless they previously had the medication, and no refills are allowed unless they get a new prescription to protect people who were already taking the drug.