COVID-19 epidemic puts limits on access to anti-rheumatic drugs

Hydroxychloroquine has been under worldwide scientific scrutiny for its potential in treatment of COVID-19. Yet the Polish Rheumatological Association (PTR) has been stressing that the substance remained part and parcel of treatment of patients suffering from rheumatological diseases, whose access to medications has been limited to a certain extent.

On April 1, Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski introduced a regulation concerning two chloroquine-containing drugs, namely Arechin and Plaquenil. Access to the drugs has been limited to prioritise hospitals engaged in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the treatment of quarantined individuals.

However, patients suffering from conditions that require treatment with Arechin and Plaquenil will be able to purchase the drugs upon demonstrating a valid receipt.

Puls Farmacji website wrote that “restrictions on the purchasable quantity of these drugs were imposed on patients authorised to use them in their treatment of conditions such as the systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.” These patients are able to buy two packages of Arechin or Plaquenil 30 tabs each, or one package of Plaquenil containing 60 tabs.

“All patients using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on rheumatological grounds should absolutely continue using them. It needs to be recalled that unfounded discontinuation of treatment with drugs may result in the exacerbation of the disease and complications,” the PTR stated.

“An active, badly controlled systemic connective tissue disease and inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis entail an increased vulnerability to infections,” the PTR wrote, adding that the health minister confirmed the regulations rendering rheumatological patients capable of purchasing Arechin and Plaquenil under the above-explained conditions.

Regarding whether hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are an efficient treatment of the COVID-19 remains an object of a scientific debate.