Warner, Kaine raise concern of shortages of lifesaving drugs amid COVID-19

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U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are expressing concerns to the FDA of a hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine shortage after the Trump administration touted the drugs as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have heard directly from healthcare providers and Virginians who depend on these lifesaving drugs and fear losing access to them.

“We write to express serious concerns with recent shortages of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and the severe impact these shortages could have for patients in Virginia. We are concerned that the recent attention given to these drugs as potential treatments for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has severely diminished the supply and may prevent patients with chronic conditions from accessing life-saving care. We urge you to work to ensure patients have access to these drugs, on which they have long depended,” the senators wrote to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.

Millions of Americans with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and malaria depend on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treatment. In particular, hydroxychlorquine helps lupus patients reduce and manage their symptoms and increase their survival chances.

Following reports that millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been donated to the Strategic National Stockpile and bought in excess by hospitals and pharmacies for use in treating patients with COVID-19, Sens. Warner and Kaine have heard from Virginians worried they won’t have access to these lifesaving drugs.

“Unfortunately, as a result, we have heard from patients across the Commonwealth who are fearful they will not be able to access these drugs, many of whom have depended on them for many years. We have also heard from prescribers who expressed the local supply of the drug is currently depleted. We fear that if this continues we will have a new public health crisis on our hands on top of the pandemic,” the senators continued. “Patients cannot – and should not – simply stop taking their medication. Our understanding is that if lupus patients stop taking the medication, they may develop withdrawal symptoms that may require hospitalization. If unable to take the drugs they rely on, there may be a spike in hospitalized lupus patients at a time when hospital beds are already at capacity with COVID-19 patients, further overwhelming our health care system.”

In their letter, the senators urged the FDA work to ensure that patients who have long depended on these drugs continue to have access to them and are not put in a situation where they must seek emergency attention, further overwhelming the health care system in the midst of the largest pandemic in a century.

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