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People with Lupus struggle to find medication after thought it could fight COVID-19

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ILLINOIS (WREX)-- A potential drug to fight COVID-19 has been praised by the federal government without proven clinical studies.

Top health officials say that drug, Hydroxychloroquine, is not yet proven to help COVID-19 patients. It is, however, proven to help people with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, and its creating a shortage of the drug and a worry in people who actually need it.

Misty Levenick has been living with Lupus since 2016.

"Your body wakes up one day and sees your lungs and thinks 'oh no, an intruder,' and it attacks," she said over the phone on Tuesday afternoon.

For her, Lupus affects her lungs and her heart. She takes Hydroxychloroquine to keep the autoimmune disease at bay.

Without it?

"A lot of us would die," she said. "Because there's not many medications we can take."

Just recently, she heard the plea from the federal government that the drug may help fight COVID-19. That plea could force her to not get her medication.

"I don't want to come across as selfish," she said. "Not at all. I just wish people would think before they run on something and grab it and gather it up."

Dr. Meenakshi Jolly, Director of the Lupus Clinic at Rush University Medical Center talks to patients daily who cannot get the drug to fight Lupus.

"I think it has created tremendous shortages of the medicine for the patients for the use it has been studied," Dr. Jolly said.

She adds that studies are limited on how successful the drug is to fight COVID-19. The federal government also notes that. Still, just last week millions of doses of it were added to the federal stockpile. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department says clinical trials are still needed, along with scientific data, before it is distributed to fight COVID-19.

The studies that are currently out there, Dr. Jolly acknowledges, are limited.

"We still don't have the answer whether this works or doesn't work," she said.

But, it does work for Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis patients, and the shortage adds stress and anxiety to those already dealing with those illnesses.

"My entire day is filled with prescribing Hydroxychloroquine and working with patients that have been on it for years and years and can't find it," Dr. Jolly said.

James Stratton

James Stratton is the Evening Anchor at 13 WREX and reports for 13 Investigates He joined the team in August, 2018 after working at KWQC TV-6 in Davenport Iowa. His work in Illinois and Iowa has been awarded in both states, along with Edward R. Murrow and Emmy Awards at 13 WREX.

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