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Milwaukie woman battling lupus concerned by hydroxychloroquine shortage

April Schumacher says she experienced a lot of pain after switching from the prescribed two pills of hydroxychloroquine to one.

MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Cycling, hiking, and water skiing are just some of April Schumacher's favorite things. The 53-year-old Milwaukie woman is not doing as much of it as she would like to since being diagnosed with lupus three years ago.

"Lupus is an immune system disorder that causes the body to attack its own cells," she said.

Credit: April Schumacher
April Schumacher was prescribed hydroxychloroquine as soon as she was diagnosed with lupus.

Right away doctors prescribed hydroxychloroquine. Schumacher says it has been magical. That changed about a month ago after she received a letter from Kaiser.

"They said effective immediately we're halving your dose."

Schumacher went from taking two hydroxychloroquine pills a day to taking one. She noticed a change almost immediately.

"I got a migraine headache that put me in bed for 30 hours," she said. "The next thing that happened was extreme pain in all of my joints and swelling."

Schumacher's discomfort ultimately stems from a shortage of hydroxychloroquine. Premier, a healthcare improvement company, reports a 260% spike in sales in the first two weeks of March. People are stockpiling the drug thinking it can prevent COVID-19. 

"I think it gives you an additional level of safety," said President Trump Tuesday. "Many doctors are in favor of it."

"It actually really upset me because he's so flippant about it," said Schumacher.

Schumacher is disgusted because there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine can prevent coronavirus. The Oregon Board of Pharmacy has gone so far as to adopt a temporary emergency rule prohibiting dispensing the drug for prevention of COVID-19. 

Schumacher hopes people understand hydroxychloroquine is not FDA approved to treat COVID-19, but it is a proven treatment for lupus and other illnesses.

"If you need it you really need it and we shouldn't be handing it out to people because they think there might be a benefit," she said. 

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