JOLIET, Mont. — Alexa Bachler is an 8-year-old girl from Joliet, Montana who suffers from a rare disease known as juvenile dermatomyositis. This disease attacks her muscles, starting with her legs and glutes before eventually making its way to the heart and lungs.
Alexa takes Hydroxychloroquine daily which helps control the inflammation on her muscles, however the Coronavirus pandemic has caused this medication to become scarce for Alexa. Alexa's mother Heather requested a prescription be filled for Alexa last week and the news she received startled her. "I called her doctor in Seattle, and let her know "the President just said this drug is what they're thinking might be helpful, is there anyway you can call us in a 90-day supply?" says Bachler. "She did right away, but when I had not heard anything from the pharmacy, this was on a Friday, I called the pharmacy on a Monday and they were already out of the drug."
Hydroxychloroquine is used to prevent Malaria and other autoimmune diseases, and most recently is being used in a study to see if the drug prevents the transmission of COVID-19. Bachler says her pharmacist told her that doctors are prescribing this medication to family, friends and acquaintances to "have on hand" in case they contract the virus.
After inquiring four different pharmacies about the medication, Heather was able to locate the drug at the Walmart Pharmacy on Billings' west end, but another problem arose for Heather. "I had to battle with the insurance company a little bit to get them to covera 90-day supply, they typically don't do that," says Heather. "Luckily we have really good insurance but a lot of people don't, so this is more of a nationwide issue, not just here in Montana."
Fearful the shortage may be prolonged, Heather has already prepared a plan to keep Alexa on her medication. "I talked to her about if it comes down to it, we'll start taking half a pill a day as opposed to one pill a day so you're not fully off the drug. I'm going to consistently do what I can to try and stay ahead of the game to make sure I have as many pills on hand as I can."
Alexa is currently at the Billings Clinic receiving plasma infusions and is holding steady.
I inquired various pharmacies in Yellowstone County about what they are seeing in pharmacies along with why there is a shortage of Hydroxychloroquine, however I was not able to receive any comment.