Dear members of the Sjogren’s Society of Canada:
There has been some concern raised over the availability of the medication that many of you may be taking, that of Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine or HCQ). On March 23, 2020, a statement was released by the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA), the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) on the “Use of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin for COVID-19 Prophylaxis”. The link is: https://ipolitics.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-03-23-OPA-OMA-RNAO-Statement-to-Members-v2-2.pdf. Earlier today I had conversations with representatives from the OPA about the availability of HCQ. The concern lies in the passage: “Due to the recent yet-to-be-proven claims of effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine sulfate against COVID-19 and the growth in prescribing for it, we are now faced with a very serious shortage (and some brands, outages) of the product. This presents very serious challenges for long-term continuity of care for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus”, and Sjogren’s.
There is, however, a clear message that is repeated throughout the statement that as “Ontario’s doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners and pharmacists, we have an obligation and duty to educate our patients that any treatment – particularly for COVID-19 – needs to be evidence-based. At this time, there is a serious lack of evidence that categorically supports the widespread use of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin”, alone or in combination.
A similar message comes from the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPA): “Hydroxychloroquine has been the subject of great interest, but the data do not yet support its use in COVID-19. It should not be dispensed for this purpose.”
Due to the surge in demand for medications in general during the COVID-19 situation, and to prevent stocks of supplies at pharmacies from being depleted, there is now a dispensing limit of a 30-day supply for all medications: https://www.pharmacists.ca/news-events/news/statement-on-30-day-supply-of-prescription-medications/. With this in mind, it would be prudent for you to have prescriptions for your medications filled, particularly that of HCQ, in case they become in short supply in your area. Please be aware that many Canadian pharmacies will provide delivery services to patients to encourage social and physical distancing. Rest assured that pharmacists will work with individual patients to understand and respond to their unique needs.
In addition, there is a sign that is available for you to post on your door with respect to deliveries. Please feel free to use it as you wish.
Wishing you good health and well-being. Together we are strong.
Leslie P. Laing, SjSC President