Lupus patients fear shortage of critical drug as COVID-19 clinical trials begin

Some patients with lupus are growing concerned after some pharmacies report being out of their medication due to its increased use in current clinical trials for COVID-19.

The race to find treatment for COVID-19 is underway across the world. Numerous clinical trials are testing multiple drugs, including hydroxychloroquine. The drug is sold under the brand name Plaquenil and prescribed to lupus patients like Nick Monfreda.

"I asked my pharmacist if I would have my prescription ready in a week or two and she said there's a complete run on the drugs since they started to make public announcements about the testing," Monfreda said.

Some doctors in Illinois and Michigan are being accused of hoarding the drug.

According to a Facebook post from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, they received, "multiple allegations of Michigan physicians inappropriately prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to themselves, family, friends, and/or coworkers without a legitimate medical purpose".

"Doctors being that irresponsible to start to write preventative scripts for friends and family was a little shocking to me,” Monfreda said. “I've heard some doctors who did that have actually gone back and turned the drugs back into the pharmacist.”

Monfreda is not only a lupus patient. He's also a board member for the Florida Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America. He said the drug is critical for some patients.

"It just helps us suppress the lupus flare-ups. It helps us manage the disease that we have," Monfreda said.

As of right now, hydroxychloroquine has not been clinically proven to be safe or successful in treating coronavirus.

Monfreda is left with just under a month of medication and is holding out hope supply picks back up before he runs out.

"There's devastating side effects if you have to come off the drug and you go through a terrible withdrawal period and that's the biggest fear for most lupus patients right now," Monfreda.

If you're a lupus patient who needs this medication, contact your local doctor. You can also reach out to the Florida Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of American for more resources by clicking here.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map