Hydroxychloroquine, which is the drug that was previously popularized by governmental officials as well as the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, as a potential treatment for the coronavirus infection is now short in supply in the market.
In accordance with media reports, the shortage of the drug originally started at the beginning of the month of March when hydroxychloroquine gained popularity due to endorsement by Trump after findings of a small-scale French study suggested that the drug may help in improving symptoms of coronavirus infection in patients.
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Regardless of the consistent warnings from the medical community, many people may have started taking hydroxychloroquine as a result of the initial hype created regarding the drug’s benefits for COVID-19.
Till now, no medical trial testing the drug has reported any benefits of taking it for patients who have tested positive for coronavirus. On the other hand, some trials have actually concluded that taking hydroxychloroquine may, in fact, have an opposite result and worsen the symptoms of the infection.
Patients who were given the current standard treatment for coronavirus infection were observed to recover faster and had an overall higher chance of survival in comparison with those who received hydroxychloroquine or a combination of the drug with azithromycin, which is a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
In addition, not only was hydroxychloroquine seen to offer no benefits for the coronavirus infection but it also increased the risk of developing heart-related conditions significantly.
The trial for hydroxychloroquine in Brazil was called off after researchers noted the development of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat in patients who were given a high dosage of hydroxychloroquine.
After receiving such reports and results, the medical community as well as health agencies including the World Health Organization immediately released warning statements regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine without a prescription from a doctor.
However, in the past few weeks, the presidents of the US and Brazil have continued to promote the drug as a potential treatment for coronavirus infection regardless of the drug’s negative impact and continuous backlash from health professionals.
Not only can taking hydroxychloroquine cause health issues in the patients but also pose different challenges for health care workers as many may start requesting treatment including the drug.
Additionally, the use of the drug without medical supervision can prompt people to buy it and use it, thereby creating a problem for people who actually need the drug for specific medical conditions.
For instance, the current shortage of hydroxychloroquine primarily affects people who have been diagnosed with the autoimmune condition lupus. The lack of medicine means that they will no longer be able to obtain it to manage the symptoms of their disease, which can greatly increase the risk of complications.
Lupus is a chronic health condition that can cause a number of complications such as inflammation, swelling, joint pain, and fatigue. The use of hydroxychloroquine is mandatory in managing many of its related symptoms.
However, a new survey which was conducted by the Lupus Research Alliance has actually found that more than one-third of patients of lupus are having difficulty in finding hydroxychloroquine since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.
The survey looked at 334 people from forty-two different states in the US who had been taking hydroxychloroquine for approximately eleven years from the start of March to the mid of May.
According to the results, nearly thirty-one percent of participants had difficulty in obtaining the drug with the spread of the coronavirus infection while five percent could not find it at all.
These results are concerning for people who need hydroxychloroquine for managing their health conditions and highlight how creating hype around any drugs cannot only harm the people who take it without prescription but also pose challenges for those who actually need it.