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Coronavirus Latest: NJ Woman Worries 'Lupus Sufferers Are Being Left Behind' Due To Drug Shortage Caused By COVID-19 Frenzy

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (CBS) -- There are growing concerns about drug shortages caused by the frenzy over COVID-19. People hoarding drugs used for malaria and other conditions have left some patients unable to get their prescribed medications.

CBS3 spoke with a woman who has lupus and is being told by the pharmacy and her doctor that the drug she relies on is out of stock, nowhere to be found. Facing an uncertain future of pain, Brenda Doherty is mad and scared.

"It's the difference between me being able to get out of bed and me being able to live my life," she said.

Doherty is talking about the drug she depends on to treat symptoms of lupus, a disease that causes the immune system to attack its own tissues.

"For me, it's fatigue, joint pain, fevers. It also protects your organs, your major organs," she said.

Coronavirus Update: Latest On COVID-19 Cases, School Closings And Cancellations Across Delaware Valley

The drug is hydroxychloroquine, which is sold under the brand name Plaquenil. It's an anti-viral also used to treat malaria.

It suppresses the production of proteins linked to several viral diseases and is now being studied for the treatment of COVID-19.

"There's some data to suggest that if you're taking hydroxychloroquine and you're exposed to the virus, that the infection won't take hold. And that's the trial that we're doing. We want to see if that drug can prevent the infection from occurring," said University of Minnesota Vice Dean for Research Tim Schacker.

Scientists don't know yet if the drug will work against the coronavirus, or if it's safe. But President Donald Trump has called it and several other drugs potential game changers in the fight against the virus.

Trump warned against hoarding but that's exactly what happened. Experts say there was a run on the medications.

Now, patients like Doherty, who lives in Mount Laurel, can't get the drug.

"I heard on the news that no one would be left behind because of the coronavirus and I feel that we as lupus sufferers are being left behind, because we no longer have the medication that we need, because it's being taken by other people for things that it may not work for," she said.

The Lupus Foundation has sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, pleading for help to "avoid disability, illness and even early death."

"I'm worried about winding up in bed and not being able to live my life. I'm worried for the other lupus sufferers. The same thing is going to happen to them," Doherty said.

In Tuesday's daily briefing, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said they're aware of the problem and working with pharmacists and the Department of Health and Human Services to make sure patients like Doherty have access to the medicine they need.

Officials are not recommending doctors prescribe the medicine to patients until there is more data from trials that are underway.

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