Pharmacies see jump in business
Local pharmacies have seen an increase in prescription orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but not any increased demand for drugs widely touted for preventing or treating the virus.
The President has said hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, used to treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and malaria, are “promising” in treating COVID-19. Clinical trials are being done in France, but medical experts in the U.S. had said it’s too soon for conclusive evidence.
Local pharmacies say they have not had people rushing to get those drugs, but they have had increases in demand for early refills of patients’ normal medications.
“We haven’t had any doctors write scrips or anything,” Tracy Lanning, owner of Lanning Pharmacy in Marion, said.
Lanning has a handful of patients who use the drugs for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
“I looked yesterday and everybody who’s regularly on it has gotten a refill,” she said.
Eliquis, used to prevent blood clots, and Novalog insulin pens have been temporarily unavailable from the warehouse she uses and she’s had to order from other warehouses, she said.
“You’d be surprised how many people think we’re going to shut down,” Lanning said.
The increase in demand for maintenance drugs has slowed down in recent days, Lanning said.
Some patients she knows are at high risk if they develop COVID-19 are still walking into the store, and the pharmacy is trying to help them reduce their risk by offering curbside delivery.
“We’re still trying to get the curbside delivery process worked out,” she said.
She thinks requests for curbside delivery might remain strong when COVID-19 measures are no longer needed.
Steve Kuder, owner of CK Pharmacy in Peabody and Moundridge, said increased demand for medicines has caused the store’s warehouse to run out from time to time, but he’s monitored the situation to keep supplies available in the store.
“We’ve had a bunch of people fill early, but we haven’t had trouble meeting their demands,” he said.
Not all insurance companies are allowing early refills, and sometimes it depends on a patient’s specific plan, he noted.
“The suppliers are doing what they can to help mitigate people hoarding,” Kuder said.
He also has seen no patients come in with new prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
He said he thinks physicians are not convinced those drugs will be effective.
“It takes quite a long time to get double-blind studies,” he said.
Kansas Board of Healing Arts recently issued an advisory about prescribing hydroxychloroquine.
“Medication side effects, drug interactions, and contraindications should be weighed against potential risks and benefits … when prescribing any medications for treatment of COVID-19,” the advisory states. “Drug therapy decisions should be evidence-based. The Board urges prescribers to consider that patients currently relying on hydroxychloroquine for Food and Drug Administration-approved indications could be negatively affected by shortages in supply.”
Kansas Board of Pharmacies also advised pharmacists to be vigilant.
“The board strongly encourages vigilance in processing new prescriptions for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, and recommends reaching out to prescribers to verify diagnosis,” that advisory states. “Recent concerns regarding an increase in … prescriptions for these medications for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 indicate pharmacists should exercise caution dispensing these medications in a community setting. Currently, there are no FDA-approved or clinically proven therapies for treatment of COVID-19. The FDA has not approved use of (these drugs) for COVID-19.”
Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy could not be reached for comment.
Last modified April 1, 2020