Global Experts Agree: Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) Must Be Protected for People with Lupus
A joint statement issued by the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance cites the rapid and overly simplified reporting on the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine (HCQ or “Plaquenil”) and chloroquine as responsible for the recent misuse and overuse of the therapies to treat the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Representing an international effort to collect information related to COVID-19 infection in people with rheumatic diseases, the Alliance calls upon drug manufacturers, clinicians, pharmacies, health systems, and governmental health agencies to continue to coordinate an aggressive response to ensure use of these drugs is appropriately managed and vulnerable patient populations, like people with lupus, are protected.
Despite significant study limitations and inconclusive trial results, misleading and unsubstantiated information about HCQ’s use as an effective COVID-19 treatment and infection prevention method was quickly shared with the press and amplified on social media. As a result, pharmacies have reported shortages of the drugs, and people with lupus who depend on HCQ as an essential and research-backed therapy may now be faced with an inadequate supply.
Evidence suggests that HCQ shortages could quickly place people with lupus at risk for severe flares and even drive up hospitalization rates when some hospitals are already at capacity. While brief gaps in therapy (i.e., 1-2 weeks) may be less concerning for people who have been taking the medication long-term, studies have shown an increase in lupus flares as soon as two weeks after the drug was stopped. It is essential to consult a physician before making any changes to medication regimens.
Until reliable data are available and adequate supplies have been put in place, the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) strongly supports prioritizing HCQ for the treatment of lupus and other evidence-based rationales. Meanwhile, use of HCQ for COVID-19 treatment purposes must be done wisely and conservatively. The continued investigation of HCQ in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is justified, but there currently are no data to recommend the use of HCQ as a preventive measure against the virus.
LFA supports the goals of the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance. Continue to follow the LFA for updates about the Alliance and HCQ supply, learn about common Hydroxychloroquine and Coronavirus Questions and Answers, and stay updated on the latest regarding coronavirus and lupus.