Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and Coronavirus (COVID-19) Questions and Answers
Updated: April 3, 2020
This is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus and how it affects those living with lupus. Make sure you also take a look at our FAQs answered by our Health Educators for overall health advice for people with lupus dealing with the coronavirus. We also have tips for refilling your hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) prescription.
I am reading that hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) may help in fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus.
Answer: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) for the treatment of coronavirus. There have been stories in the news about hydroxychloroquine because the results of some small studies in China and Europe were initially promising. However, this medicine is not currently recommended as a treatment for the coronavirus at this time because there is not enough evidence that it is effective for this purpose.
I have been taken off hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). Should I start taking it again?
Answer: You should not make any changes to your lupus medication or treatment plan unless directed by your lupus doctor. Your doctor knows your symptoms and health status best.
Is a shortage of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) expected?
Answer: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has posted a notice of a shortage of hydroxychloroquine. It is not possible to predict the full scope and duration of the shortage or the long term impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the supply of hydroxychloroquine. We are actively working with all relevant stakeholders, including
- our medical and scientific advisors,
- other patient groups,
- federal and state officials,
- manufacturers of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine,
- state boards of pharmacy,
- health plans,
- pharmacies and pharmacists, and
All of these groups can play a role in helping to ensure that people with lupus have access to the medications they need. Several manufacturers of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine that we have reached out to have publicly announced they are increasing drug supplies or committing to donate the medications to the federal government in order to increase their supply and availability.
I take hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) for my lupus. Will my monthly prescription be put in danger of not being filled?
Answer: The FDA has posted a notice of a shortage of hydroxychloroquine and unfortunately people with lupus are finding it difficult to fill prescriptions for this drug. At this time, it is not possible to predict the full scope and duration of the shortage or the long term impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the supply of hydroxycloriquine. We are actively working to address the supply issue and will report to our constituents through our website as more information becomes available. If you are having trouble filling your prescription, we have some strategies that may be helpful.
If I am already on hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)/chloroquine (Aralen) am I not as high risk for contracting COVID?
Answer: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention individuals with serious underlying health conditions are at risk of getting very sick from the coronavirus.
There is no evidence that taking hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)/chloroquine (Aralen) is effective in preventing a person from contracting the coronavirus. People with lupus should follow the guidance of their doctor and the safety guidelines being issued by the CDC.
If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from the coronavirus, you should:
- stock up on supplies;
- take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
When you go out in public:
- keep away from others who are sick;
- limit close contact and wash your hands often;
- avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential travel.
If there is an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible.
Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor.
More information on how to prepare, what to do if you get sick, and how communities and caregivers can support those at higher risk is available on People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19.
Can the use of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) or chloroquine (Aralen) prevent coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Answer: No. There is no evidence that taking hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) or chloroquine (Aralen) is effective in preventing a person from contracting the coronavirus, so people who are not already taking this medication do not need to start it now. People with lupus should follow the guidance of their doctor and the safety guidelines being issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for people with compromised immune systems.
How can I get an extended supply of the medication?
Answer: Only your doctor can increase your prescription quantity. The amount you can receive at one time also will depend on the policies of your health insurance carrier or government-sponsored healthcare program (such as Medicare or Medicaid).
Will insurance pay for an extended supply of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)?
Answer: Reimbursement for extended supplies of a prescription drug will depend on the terms of your insurance coverage or the policies of government heathcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Please contact your insurance carrier for details.
Are there alternative medications I can use in the event of a shortage?
Answer: Unfortunately, there are no good alternatives to hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) or chloroquine (Aralen) for people who need these medications. They are in a class by themselves and have the advantage of not being immunosuppressive. This is unlike many other therapies, including glucocorticoids like prednisone that increase risk of infections of all kinds. Your doctor will know best what alternatives may be available for you. Please do not make any changes to what medicines you take or how you take them without talking to your doctor. For additional information on treatments used for lupus see: www.lupus.org/understanding-lupus/treatment
Bringing together all of our questions and answers, videos, news items, and resources around the coronavirus and how it affects people living with lupus.Get The Resources