Dear Doctors: You need to prioritize Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) for patients with Lupus and RA

Dear Prescribers,

Our country is currently at war with a dangerous new enemy, COVID-19, and we are failing our patients. 

My name is Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi, lead pharmacist and CEO of the online pharmacy Honeybee Health, and I am writing to you today because I have noticed something alarming: 

There are some prescribers within the medical community that are contributing to the panic-driven hoarding of prescription medications. 

Specifically, my pharmacy has received a concerning number of prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure for COVID-19. 

While hydroxychloroquine is under investigation as a possible treatment option for COVID-19, it is not an FDA-approved treatment and has only been approved by the U.S. government for compassionate use in patients with no other recourse. Due to the lack of sufficient clinical evidence for the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients, the WHO and CDC have also refrained from endorsing this treatment option.

Furthermore, this drug can have serious side effects when used irresponsibly, especially in combination with azithromycin. Several reports have been made of fatal overdoses of the drug in coronavirus patients around the world.

And it is irresponsible to overprescribe an unproven prescription medication “just in case” in response to pressure from patients. 

We should—and do—expect better from healthcare professionals. 

We have a duty, you and I, to work together to prescribe and dispense prescription medications in an ethical and thoughtful manner. The failure of some prescribers to do this is resulting in a shortage of hydroxychloroquine for the patients that need it most. Hydroxychloroquine is a life-saving drug for the approximately 3 million Americans currently living with the autoimmune conditions lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Already, some wholesalers have reported a shortage of hydroxychloroquine due to the increasing number of prescriptions written for use as an off-label treatment option for COVID-19. 

Prescribers—I am asking you to please only prescribe this medication for patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. If you do prescribe it for COVID-19, please only do so for patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Thank you to those of you who do prescribe responsibly, and thank you for serving at the front lines of this health crisis. 

These are necessary steps in order to ensure the continued availability of hydroxychloroquine and to protect the health and wellbeing of our patients. 

Jessica Nouhavandi