In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) in Mexico, people suffering from autoimmune and rheumatic diseases —considered a vulnerable sector at this time— have been left without the possibility of acquiring two key medications for their treatment: hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
In the last two weeks these medicines were bought in bulk under a false belief that they are the cure for the new coronavirus, however, this hypothesis has not been confirmed by the authorities and has only caused shortages in pharmacies and government institutions. .
The panic shopping have affected patients with lupusFor example, those who need hydroxychloroquine – Plaquenil is its trade name – and chloroquine – Aralen is its trade name – to prevent the disease from damaging joints and vital organs.
“People with lupus have had a shortage since the beginning of this year, but it intensified with the arrival of the coronavirus. At the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) they do not have the medicines and the truth is worrying because if we do not take them, our health could be seriously affected ”, explained María Fernanda Aldana, one of the young women who has suffered from the shortage.
Some lupus patients attribute the lack of medications to a message that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, published on Twitter. The president pointed out that hydroxychloroquine could be an alternative to treat Covid-19, although this has not been corroborated or confirmed by specialists in the field.
“That drug is not yet approved for the treatment of covid-19 and in any case a doctor would have to prescribe it because it has its side effects, it affects the retina, so if people consume it, it could cause damage to their eyes and heart. “María Fernanda warned.
The young woman relates that for three and a half years, when she was diagnosed with lupus, she had to take hydroxychloroquine and that helped to calm her pain that would not leave her or remove the sheets from her. Despite the fact that two percent of his kidney was affected by the disease, this medicine has allowed him to live normally.
“What I have learned is that the more attached you are to your treatment, the disease stays asleep, it no longer affects our organs as much, you have no symptoms, you feel good and sometimes you even forget that you are sick because you can continue with your life, but it is very important to continue taking medications, “said María Fernanda.
Campaign against shortages launched
Against this background, Erika Kaiser, a kidney transplant triathlete who also suffers from lupus, launched the Don’t Leave Me Without Medicines campaign on Instagram. In this way, people who have bought these medications and do not use them can send a message to the page and donate the supplies to those who have lupus, arthritis and other diseases.
“The shortage is not only a problem at the national level, it is global, the statements made by Donald Trump caused people to buy drugs impulsively. The problem is also that there is a very low production line because autoimmune and rheumatic diseases are not very well attended, “said Erika Kaiser.
Although she no longer consumes hydroxychloroquine because her lupus is in the remission phase, she asks that the medicines be returned to those who do need it: “The life of these patients is being put at risk, if they do not take the drugs, lupus can activate and even cause death by attacking different organs.
Those affected by the shortage also pointed out another factor for which they cannot find the drugs: pharmacies are selling it without having a prescription and that would put the health of people who could consume it during the pandemic at risk.
Vania Isis Gutiérrez, vice president of the organization The Awakening of the Butterfly, expert in patients with lupus, said “we are in a crisis, patients have no way to get their medications, at the IMSS we have been told that there is a shortage and it has been quite a go on a pilgrimage for these people to get the drugs ”.
Querétaro, Aguascalientes, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Yucatán, Veracruz, Hidalgo, Estado de México and Mexico City are some of the entities in which social organizations have detected the shortage mainly.
As in the Instagram page Do not leave me without medicines, people who want to donate hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can contact the site of The Awakening of the Butterfly on Facebook, where they will receive instructions on the process to follow.