CHANDIGARH — For the past couple of weeks, Paramjit Kaur, a 48-year-old school teacher in Mohali, Punjab, has been trying desperately to find tablets of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the anti-malaria drug that is also prescribed for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
“The chemists are selling HCQ to only regular customers and not to walk-ins. Also, they provide a single strip every time. Last week, my chemist told me he would get more supply but this time when I visited, it’s out of stock,” Kaur told HuffPost India over the phone.
Kaur is now down to her last two tablets and is dreading the recurrence of swelling and acute pain in her joints if she skips her daily dose. Her mother-in-law, who also suffers from the same disease, has already switched to ayurvedic medicine.
As India begins exporting HCQ again to some countries after a brief ban, pharmacists and patients say it has become hard to find in shops. Apart from malaria, the drug is also prescribed to patients (mostly women) suffering from auto-immune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
While state authorities insist there is no domestic shortage, multiple news reports have quoted panicked patients who are unable to access the drug that keeps their pain in control.
Like many other medicines, the ongoing national lockdown has disrupted the supply of HCQ as well. But the bigger reason for the shortage may be the unproven claim—most famously by US President Donald Trump—that the drug could help COVID-19 patients.
As some states insist on prescriptions and patients resort to panic-buying, worried doctors warn that it’s the chronic sufferers who may need the drug more than potential COVID-19 patients.
Doctors across cities told HuffPost India that they currently see no choice but to give priority to the patients who need the medicine the most.
In Chennai, many hospitals...