Update on hydroxychloroquine

Access to hydroxychloroquine has proven challenging in recent weeks, following reports that the drug is being investigated as a possible treatment for COVID-19.  These reports have led to a spike in demand and stockpiling of the drug which have meant that some people who need the drug to manage their rheumatoid arthritis or lupus have had difficulty filling their scripts.

Arthritis Australia has been in ongoing discussions with government, prescriber and pharmacy groups to investigate and address these issues and measures are now in place to support normal supply and distribution of hydroxychloroquine, including legislated limits on prescribing the drug.

At this stage, suppliers advise there is no national shortage of hydroxychloroquine and that stock is available and being delivered to pharmacy wholesalers. However, we understand that some localised access issues persist.

If you are having trouble accessing hydroxychloroquine for your condition, you should ask your pharmacist to contact their wholesaler to request release of supply, or to contact the supplier directly. You may also wish to consider ordering your medicine through your pharmacist a week or two in advance of running out.

Alternatively, you can ask your pharmacist to contact the supplying company to discuss how to obtain supply.  The supplying companies for the available brands of hydroxychloroquine are listed below:

 

Brand

Company

Customer service number

Plaquenil Sanofi Australia 1800 818 806
APO -hydroxychloroquine Apotex Pty Ltd 1800 133 300
Hequinel

Hydroxychloroquine AN

Arrow Pharma Pty Ltd (owns both brands) 1300 927 769
Hydroxychloroquine GH Generic Health 03 9809 7900


This information is  provided to assist consumers to fill their existing scripts for hydroxychloroquine and is not intended as an endorsement of any kind.

While hydroxychloroquine is being investigated as a possible treatment for COVID-19, its effectiveness for this condition has yet to be established. In the meantime, doctors are being urged to prescribe hydroxychloroquine only for approved conditions, namely rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or malaria prevention.

New restrictions for hydroxychloroquine and salbutamol now in place

From 24 March 2020, new federal legislation is in place to limit the availability of two medicines that have seen increased demand in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation has been implemented so that these medicines continue to be available for Australians who need them for ongoing medical conditions.

Hydroxychloroquine is the active ingredient in medicines used for the prevention and treatment of certain types of malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. Medicines containing hydroxychloroquine are in Schedule 4, meaning they are available only with a prescription.

From 24 March 2020, treatment with hydroxychloroquine will need to be authorised first by certain specialists before ongoing prescribing by a general practitioner can occur.

Currently, hydroxychloroquine is being tested as a potential treatment for people infected with the SARS-COV-2 virus. No recommendations have yet been made regarding dose, frequency or duration. Use of this medicine for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 outside of clinical trial research is off-label.

Read more at NSP MedicineWise

Read the legislation: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2020L00291

 

Last updated on 16 April 2020

 

Resource(s) NPS MedicineWise: https://www.nps.org.au/coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR1bgeu0kgnRCQj1DYV0HAewMNT2HVI5yM79mPlj8voNyCgQqs7hfOo9YrY Australian Government: Poisons Standard Amendment (Hydroxychloroquine and Salbutamol) Instrument 2020, ttps://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2020L00291