Lupus patients taking hydroxychloroquine can't find it due to COVID-19 pandemic

"I've called pharmacies in Ohio, I've called Canada, I've called Chicago," said Precious Hackett. "I've been calling all over trying to get this drug." 

Precious Hackett has been using Plaquenil - the brand name for hydroxychloroquine to manage her Lupus for more than 20 years.

But as more COVID-19 patients are being treated with the drug, people like Hackett are having a tough time finding it. 

"They're saying that they can't order it," she said. "They distributors aren't even filling the prescriptions."

Hydroxycholoquine is commonly used to manage Lupus, which is a disease that causes the body's immune system to become hyperactive and attack normal, healthy tissue and it takes a toll on the organs.

And while its effectiveness is clinically unproven in regards to the coronavirus, hydroxychloroquine has shown some promise as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

"I applaud them for using that and I'm glad they found something, but in light of, this is something me and others have been on for many years and they're making it difficult for us to get," she said.

"Doctors, pharmacists even our government is making sure this drug is going to be available in case is it effective for COVID-19 patients," said Ben Rathbun. "Unfortunately that leaves a real tug of war for Lupus patients where the science actually has proven that it helps and even saves lives of lupus patients."

Rathbun heads up the Michigan Lupus Foundation and says the majority of people living with the disease use Plaquenil.  He signed on to letters to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Vice President Mike Pence and the COVID-19 taskforce asking that they find and keep hydroxychloroquine available for Lupus patients.

"I am very worried and we're being very proactive to try and protect our Lupus patients' lives because there will be people who die if they don't have this medication," he said.

Precious Hackett and her dwindling supply of hydroxycholoquine she uses to treat Lupus.

The National Strategic Stockpile shipped millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine to Michigan and other areas in need. The Department of Health and Human Services says there are 10 million doses left in the stockpile. 

Precious Hackett says there are just 10 pills left in her medicine cabinet.

"I have a week if I space them out one at a time, missing a day," she said. 

FOX 2: "And after that week, what happens?"

"After that week, I take it day by day until I have to go to Beaumont," Hackett said.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs says it has reminded prescribers and dispensers on a number of occasions that any prescription medicine that proves effective against COVID-19 has to be reserved for Michigan's sickest and most vulnerable patients which includes anyone with rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus.