The president first began touting hydroxychloroquine in March, when he called it a potential “game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. This predictably led to shortages, as doctors and others worried about the virus began stockpiling the drug. Those of us who take the medication for Sjogren’s and other autoimmune conditions, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, were left counting down our pills as we struggled to obtain refills.
“I, too, need hydroxychloroquine, three times a day or risk death,” one person emailed me after I first wrote about this two months ago. “I was told by our pharmacies that since the president’s premature announcement, they and their distributors are out of supply. I currently have a 30-day supply and then, who knows?”
Fortunately, after that came good news about the potential of the anti-viral remdesivir, even as major, respected authorities like the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs poured cold water on the president’s fixation with hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure.
I thought the coverage of these developments would be a game-changer for me. But then Monday, despite everything, Trump told reporters: “A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it” — meaning hydroxychloroquine. He heard a lot of “good stories” about it, he said, and consulted with the White House physician.
And just like that I’m back to wading through a thick pool of uncertainty, at a time when more uncertainty is the last thing I need.
Right now I have a little over two months left of my hydroxychloroquine medication supply. I put a big red circle on my calendar to remind me to inquire about obtaining my next refill early.
I do understand why the president would seek a drug to take preventively, given the covid-19 cases that have breached the White House perimeter. As this virus continues to confound, many of us are understandably scared, and self-preservation is only human. But why can’t Trump put on a mask and keep his six-foot distance from others instead?
“I’m not going to get hurt by [taking the drug],” Trump said Monday. I hope he’s right. But hydroxychloroquine has a number of serious, potentially fatal side effects, including cardiac risks and heart arrhythmia. Vision loss is a major concern for those of us who rely on the drug long-term, and I have yearly ophthalmology exams to ensure I don’t lose my sight. But I have no choice but to take it. That’s not true of the president.
One more quote: “I want the people of this nation to feel good. I don’t want them being sick,” Trump said at a recent meeting with restaurant executives at the White House.
Mr. President, I don’t feel good. My new normal is one of frustration and unnecessary stress, which leaves me vulnerable to worsening health and perhaps could even trigger another autoimmune condition. Colleagues and friends of my family have gotten sick or lost relatives. I don’t know if I will live through this virus; I would clearly face real risks if I were to contract it.
With hydroxychloroquine receding from the news in the past few weeks, I thought I could give myself a break from thinking about this nightmarish situation for a quick minute. But with this president it seems there is no rest.