March 27, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and chloroquine prescriptions

We are taking steps to ensure we have adequate supply to meet current and expected needs.

Currently, there is a global shortage of the medications hydroxychloroquine (and the brand-name version, Plaquenil) and chloroquine. Over the past few weeks, these drugs were identified as having a potential beneficial impact in the treatment of some severely sick COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized, which in turn has caused demand to rise dramatically. Supplies from drug manufacturers have not yet caught up.

These medications are also commonly used to treat patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and malaria. Kaiser Permanente is taking steps to ensure we have adequate supply to meet the existing needs of patients who are taking these medications, and also ensure access for severely sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19 infections. Actions underway include:

  • We are actively converting patients from Plaquenil to other medications, especially for many patients with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and dermatomyositis, where very good alternative medications exist. Physicians are individually contacting their patients to explain this process and discuss their medications.
  • We are doing all we can to continue filling all current prescriptions for patients with lupus. Until supplies can be increased to match the significantly increased demand, starting this week we will provide 14-day refills, instead of 90-day refills. Physicians will work with their patients to review their medications, and to ensure they are able to manage their care under this approach. The collection of copays will be adjusted appropriately to fairly reflect this change in dispensing during this time.     
  • We and other health care organizations across the country are also working with manufacturers and other sources of these drugs to obtain increased supplies, to meet the expected needs to come.

If we don’t take steps to mitigate the shortage, we all will face the real possibility of running out of these drugs in the next few weeks.

Over the next several weeks, we expect the drug manufacturers to ramp up production to meet the increased demand across the United States and the world. As supply becomes available, our physicians will evaluate these dispensing protocols and adjust accordingly.