The coronavirus pandemic is sending shockwaves through the health care system — and many people who are not infected with the virus are suffering as a result of the chain reaction of events.
According to KTVU Fox 2, Kaiser Permanente has denied a woman with lupus her medications, because the drug in question — hydroxychloroquine — is being investigated for its use to treat coronavirus patients. Kaiser then sent the woman, only identified as "Dale," a letter thanking her for her "sacrifice" and informing her the drugs would be reserved for patients "critically ill with COVID-19."
"Thank you for the sacrifice you will be making for the sake of those that are critically ill; your sacrifice may actually save lives," stated the message. “We are working hard every day to continue to do everything we can to find ways to replenish the medication as soon as possible. During this time, you should continue to take the remaining pills you have on schedule unless otherwise instructed by your prescribing physician." The message warned her not to ask her physician for an "exception," as the prescription will not be filled.
"The fact that they thanked me for my 'sacrifice' is disturbing," said Dale to BuzzFeed News. "I never agreed to sacrifice my health and possibly my life, and cannot believe that I am being forced to do so ... I am already immunocompromised, and not taking this medication likely put me into a lupus flare, making serious complications from COVID more likely."
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that results from immune cells attacking healthy body tissue. A lupus flare can cause inflammation, severe pain, and organ damage. The disease has no cure, and for many patients the only way to manage it is hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
Some doctors have reported beneficial results from using these medications in COVID-19 patients, and although additional study is needed, already many facilities are reserving the drugs in anticipation of shortages.