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Dermatologists request government intervention over HCQ shortage

In a joint letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the Lupus Foundation of America expressed concerns about the availability of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients.

The letter (sent March 24, 2020) urges the task force to ensure both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine remain available to patients who rely on them to avoid disability, illness and even early death.

Both medications are under investigation as potential treatment options for COVID-19. The joint letter expresses concern that since the medications have been linked as a possible cure for COVID-19, it has exacerbated the demand for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and impacted the already limited supply for patients who rely on the treatments.

There remains limited data to support the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, according to the letter’s authors. Both organizations support the clinical trials to investigate the potential use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19, but ask the task force to ensure access to the medications for patients whose lives and productivity depend on them is preserved.

Currently lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and malaria are the only indications for which hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are approvedby the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The joint letter notes that many patients are already having difficulties filling their prescriptions, as a result of shortages of the medications.

The letter addressed to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urges the task force to work with the health care community to help ensure continued availability of these drugs for the patients who depend on them.

For many patients there are no alternatives to hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine. For lupus patients, hydroxychloroquine is the only treatment shown to increase survival.

The organizations urge the government to work with the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. FDA to increase monitoring and timely reporting of shortages, utilize existing authorities to increase production of the medications and ensure current supplies are available to patients taking them for the indicated uses.

Additionally, the letter asks the task force to communicate to the public and healthcare professionals accurate information about hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and the status of their use for COVID-19, including clinical trials that are underway and what is known about the safety and efficacy of the medications for the treatment of COVID-19.

The government is also asked to ensure sufficient supplies are available for patients using the medications for the indicated uses by implementing restrictions to minimize the unnecessary prescribing of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for use in COVID-19 patients.

Further, the letter requests the government monitor and take action against unreasonable price increases of the medications.

Lastly, the letter asks that patients who take the medications for indicated uses are given ongoing access to refills of a 90-day supply to prepare for emergency in case of a sudden shortage.

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