Since Hydroxychloroquine (HcQ) has been regularly mentioned in media as a potential medication in the fight against COVID, the number of patients highlighting unavailability issues increased substantially. With the help of its members, LUPUS EUROPE initiated a survey amongst patients to obtain broad based feedback on the magnitude and impact of the issue. Results covering the purchase period of march and beginning April are now available.
2024 valid answers were received from 28 European countries thanks to a translation of the survey in 11 European languages.
- Overall immediate availability of HcQ when asked in the usual pharmacy has reduced from 65% at the beginning of March to 51% end March and 44% early April. 59.4% of respondents have been able to obtain Hydroxychloroquine on the day of request, 18.9% with a delay not exceeding 3 days and a further 12.1% have experienced (or are at the day of the survey reaching) a delay of more than 3 but less than 7 days.
- 6.7% of all patients have experienced a delay of 2 weeks or more or are still without HcQ more than 2 weeks after ordering. This extended unavailability significantly varies by country, with Poland highest at 27% followed by Spain (11%). Finland, Germany, Denmark and Slovakia have the lowest unavailability rates (0-4%).
- These results exclude Bulgaria, where there was already little or no access to HcQ for lupus patient, even before Covid. This is a major access to care issue in the EU landscape.
- With regards to the anxiety of potentially not being able to have access to Hydroxychloroquine, 36.4% reported high or very high anxiety (7 to 9 on a scale of 10), and another 20.8% extremely high anxiety (10 on 10).
More detailed results are available here, together with specific recommendations for action.
LUPUS EUROPE and several of its members have raised, and keep raising the issue with manufacturers and authorities. Solutions have been put in place in several countries, including increased control (or governmental control) on distribution, restricting off label use to hospitals, and establishing an alternate channel to make HcQ available for pharmacies directly based on a prescription for “On label” (like lupus), use. The objective is that, all patients with a chronic condition requiring HcQ get it, if not immediately, at least within 3 days of ordering. Our intention is to re-run the survey in a month’ time to evaluate progress towards that goal.
Guidelines for patients concerned with Hydroxychloroquine availability are available here .