SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A drug used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis is being studied as a possible treatment for coronavirus, but as we report, the new demand is making it harder for people who rely on that medicine to find it.
"That's my greatest concern, is I'm worried about the disease progressing," Anne Griffin said.
Griffin, a retired teacher from Fairfield, has been taking hydroxychloroquine for 11 years to help reduce joint pain and swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis. But her medication is now in jeopardy.
"My doctor said, he called me actually a week ago today and said it's no longer going to be available," she said.
Griffin was told there is a shortage of the drug she so desperately needs and to begin rationing her doses.
"I have about maybe three weeks left, and if I ration it maybe six weeks, but I'm supposed to take it every day," Griffin said. "That's the RX, that's what it says on the label. Take one tablet by my daily."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports 30 million tablets of the drug have been donated to the national stockpile for possible treatment of COVID-19.
The president has repeatedly touted the benefits of the drug, although it hasn't been proven effective and safe in treating patients hospitalized with coronavirus.
In a press conference, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said, "In my conversations with doctors, there are a number of side effects from hydroxychloroquine. It is a safe drug but there are a number of side effects. So just subscribing it prophylactically to anybody who wants it - is that sound medicine?"
A hard pill to swallow for those like Griffin, whose life depends on this medication.
As the U.S. National Institute of Health tracks clinical trials of the drug, the FDA has not approved it for treatment of COVID-19.
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