"A Rheumy On The Rumors" A Rheumatologist Addresses the Hydroxychloroquine And Covid-19 Myths

This Q & A session was conducted on April 13th 2020 by the Creator of More Than Lupus, Kelli Roseta. She asked Dr. Mark Jason, Board Certified Rheumatologist and Director of the Arthritis Center of Southern Orange County, a series of “rumors” that have made national news about lupus and COVID-19, and the drug used as the standard of care to treat lupus, hydroxychloroquine.

His answers were shocking and important for every person to know.

Here is a "rheumy" on the rumors:


Is it true that hydroxychloroquine is safe for everyone to take? 


“Absolutely not. There are many potential side effects. You need to have an exam by an ophthalmologist to clear you for this medicine. You cannot take it if you have macular degeneration. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. If you have kidney disease the dosage must be reduced. Other drugs can interact and reduce the effectiveness. Heart rhythms can be affected. Blood sugar levels could be affected in people on diabetes medications. Heart medications can affect the blood levels of the drug. Pigmented skin lesions can appear, bruising, headaches, dizziness, inflamed muscles and nerves, damage to the retina. Recently reported are deaths from using plaquenil and some of these studies have been abandoned.” - Dr. Jason


Is it true that taking hydroxychloroquine can definitively prevent people from contracting COVID-19?


“There is no proof of this at all. Your immune system is your body's main defense against germs and illnesses. When you have lupus, you're more prone to infections because your immune system works differently than most people's. It becomes overactive and attacks your body.

Lupus affects many parts of your body, and people with lupus may have other health problems. Some can make it harder to fight an infection like COVID-19. Plaquenil reduces joint swelling and rashes. It will not prevent you from getting the virus.

There is no evidence that taking hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is effective in preventing a person from contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19). People with lupus should follow the guidance of their doctor and the safety guidelines being issued by the CDC.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease - that means that the immune system is dysfunctional and attacks one's healthy tissue. This can make the immune system less effective at fighting infections. Medications that suppress the immune system - which people with lupus often take - can also limit their body’s ability to respond to infections. As a result, people with lupus are less able to fight off bacteria and viruses, like COVID-19. When people with lupus do get sick their illness may also trigger a lupus flare. People with lupus may also have other conditions that put them at higher risk for serious illness from coronavirus such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and a weakened immune system.” - Dr. Jason


Is it true that there is scientific evidence that lupus patients don’t contract COVID-19?


“You may have seen recent headlines suggesting that people with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects about 1.5 million Americans, don’t contract coronavirus because many of them take hydroxychloroquine. This information is not true, and the Global Healthy Living Foundation needs to set the record straight based on data and medical expertise. In fact lupus patients already on Plaquenil have developed Coronavirus… So much for that idea.” - Dr. Jason


Is it true that the studies in France and China did not have control groups, therefore, their data is not reliable?


“Correct. You can’t prove anything without a control group... and so far those studies with control groups are inconclusive.” - Dr. Jason RUMOR:

Is it true that lupus and RA patients are being denied their hydroxychloroquine because of the demand to treat COVID-19 patients?


“Unfortunately yes. Right now most of my lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients are unable to get their Plaquenil prescriptions filled as Trump has stockpiled 29 million pills!!!! Most pharmacists will give early refills to lupus patients and then try and get them before the Rx runs out.” - Dr. Jason


Is it true that there are plenty of other options for those with lupus to take if they run out of HCQ?


“This depends on their symptoms. There is prednisone, Benlysta, Cellcept and other drugs like Rituxan, cytoxan, Imuran, but it all depends on how severe the lupus is.“ - Dr. Jason


Is it true that if lupus patients are forced to run out of their hydroxychloroquine, they could experience increased disease activity?


“Definitely yes.”

- Dr. Jason

Dr. Mark Jason MD is a board certified doctor in both internal medicine and rheumatology in Laguna Hills, CA with over 43 years of experience. He currently runs the Arthritis Center of Southern Orange County. Known locally as the “Show Doc” Dr. Jason incorporates live music into his patients visits, regularly playing piano in his infusion center to calm his patients. For more information on Dr. Jason and the Arthritis Center of Southern Orange County, email:

**All resources provided by this blog are for informational purposes only, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. Kelli encourages you to always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns regarding your illness. All intellectual property and content on this site and in this blog is owned by This includes materials protected by copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Copyright, More Than Lupus 2020.

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