Upon receiving a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I got a crash course in medication management as my body either rejected or didn’t respond to multiple pharmaceuticals. From steroids, pain medications, and chemotherapeutic doses of drugs used to treat cancer, to pills that made me lose control of my bowels, weekly injections into my abdomen, and the anti-malarial medicine, Hydroxychloroquine, we hear about nearly every day now.
As we attempted to control my pain and treat my disease with these well-established and thoroughly tested medications, one thing became abundantly clear: there is no magic pill that works for everyone. What works for your Aunt may well cause an allergic reaction in your best friend. The drugs that are giving your neighbor relief may send you to the emergency room. And when the most common treatments make you worse, you move on to the next level of medication that requires more testing before taking them, and an increased number of dangerous side-effects.
But you want to feel better and be able to enjoy your life, so you keep trying despite the risks. You focus on the glimmer of hope and the potential to feel better, even though nothing seems to work.
For about six months, my treatment protocol included a twice-a-day dose of Hydroxychloroquine combined with multiple other medications. I had studied the risks of the drug before agreeing to take it, and I had all the required testing done in advance.
Yes, there are specific tests you are required to have completed before starting on this drug, even though there are a significant number of scientific studies that show it is effective in treating my condition. Yet, in the end, it did not help me and left with me another new drug allergy and physical reminders of the damage it did to my body.
“The side effects are the least of it,” our President said, yet to me and others who experience the actual side effects, they are everything.
Fortunately, many who take Hydroxychloroquine for diseases such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis do well on the drug and are better able to manage their chronic conditions. Whether or not these people who need the medication will be able to continue to get it is now in question.
Yet our President was heard saying, “What could it hurt?” when asked why he was pushing the use of a drug untested for treating Covid-19.
What could it hurt, Mr. President?
People. It could hurt the more than 1.5 million Americans who are living with Lupus, and the 1.3 Americans with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The majority of whom are women.
At a time when our most vulnerable need to know our leader is looking out for the wellbeing of all, our President creates mass stockpiling of this dangerous drug, while the people who need it to manage their diseases struggle to obtain it.
He continues to promote the use of this drug, often in combination with other medications, to treat a virus where according to experts, 80% of the infected people will recover on their own, and there is no adequate testing to prove it helps the other 20% at all.
And he justifies it all by saying, “I’m not a doctor; I’m a person with common sense.”
As we see the mounting death toll from Covid-19, I understand the desire to grasp at straws and the willingness to try anything. I can’t imagine there is a person among us who doesn’t want to see a treatment and cure for this horrible disease, but there is nothing sensical about what our President is doing when it comes to Hydroxychloroquine.
He has no real understanding of the potential for serious harm to the human body. Both for the people who cannot obtain this medicine, they need to treat their current conditions and for those who take a drug that has no scientific proof of efficacy on the coronavirus.
Equally as devasting is the damage this false hope does to the human spirit.
What can it hurt, indeed.