April 02, 2020

Warren Urges FDA to Address Shortages of Drugs Prematurely Touted by President Trump as COVID-19 Treatments

"President Trump's unproven claims about the drugs have increased demand, leaving physicians and patients that already rely on them to grapple with shortages of these essential medications"; Shortage of antimalarial drugs also increase risks for individuals with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to address reports of shortages of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, antimalarial drugs typically used to treat lupus, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis that President Trump has repeatedly promoted as treatments for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), despite neither drug being tested in appropriate clinical studies.

"President Trump's unproven claims about the drug have fueled an increased demand for them, leaving physicians and patients that already rely on them to grapple with shortages of these essential medications," wrote Senator Warren.

Though scientists have begun testing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as candidates for potential COVID-19 treatments and the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the prescription of the drugs in certain circumstances, public health experts have cautioned against their wide distribution. Despite these warnings, President Trump continues to use his platform to tout unproven treatments, resulting in inappropriate prescribing, at least one death, and reported shortages of the drugs. This threatens to exacerbate existing health problems; there are already reports pharmacists have had to turn away or limit supplies to patients being treated for autoimmune disorders.

"This is extremely disturbing because a disruption in access to these drugs presents serious risks for patients with autoimmune disorders, making them more susceptible to complications from COVID-19 should they get the virus," wrote Senator Warren. "It is imperative that we ensure these drugs remain available for patients who rely on them to avoid illness and disability."

Because the FDA typically responds to drug shortages by "taking actions to address their underlying causes and to enhance product availability" when necessary, Senator Warren has requested an update on how the agency is working to guarantee that patients that rely on these drug will continue to have access during this crisis, how the agency is working to combat misinformation about the effectiveness of drug treatments for COVID-19, and about how the agency may be working with providers to ensure safe prescription practices for these drugs.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has pressed the Trump Administration to respond effectively to deliver the robust set of resources needed to address this emergency. She recently unveiled detailed plans to increase diagnostic testing nationwide, and sounded the alarm alongside Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) over the Trump Administration's failure to deliver federal support for testing and care in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, she put out a plan for getting relief directly to workers, families, and small businesses, and has fought to prioritize federal aid for keeping workers on payroll and helping hospitals, states and localities respond to the crisis -- before bailing out giant corporations.