For nearly 30 years, Bonnie Lieberman has relied on a drug called Plaquenil to prevent a flare-up of symptoms associated with lupus: rashes, debilitating fatigue, “swollen, hot, painful joints.”
“This drug is lifesaving for me because it helps me function,” she said.
But when Lieberman, a preschool teacher from California, called her pharmacy Friday to check whether her new prescription was available, she got a startling reply.
“I physically don’t have any medication,” Lieberman, 46, said she was told. “It’s back-ordered everywhere.”
Lieberman didn’t have to be told why. She knew that President Donald Trump had touted the drug, known by its generic name, hydroxychloroquine, as a possible treatment for the coronavirus the day before.
Clinical tests are only just beginning, and infectious disease experts say it’s too soon to reach a conclusion. Still, the publicity surrounding hydroxychloroquine, which began well before Trump’s remarks, has fueled shortages across the country, NBC News found.
“To affect lupus patients this way is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Lieberman, a mother of two from Sunnyvale.
“I hope they find something that helps people,” she added, “but it’s more that it’s an unfounded thing at this point.”
Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial medication, has long been used by people who suffer from lupus. The autoimmune disease afflicts about 1.5 million Americans, predominantly women and African Americans.