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Woman with lupus has taken hydroxychloroquine for years and still got COVID-19

INSIDER logoINSIDER 5/21/2020 insider@insider.com (K. Thor Jensen)
A pharmacy tech holds a bottle of hydroxychloroquine on May 20, 2020. George Frey/AFP via Getty Imahes © George Frey/AFP via Getty Imahes A pharmacy tech holds a bottle of hydroxychloroquine on May 20, 2020. George Frey/AFP via Getty Imahes
  • A Wisconsin woman with lupus says she has taken hydroxychloroquine for 19 years and still was infected with the coronavirus.
  • On Monday, President Trump announced he was taking the drug for "a week and a half" after two staffers tested positive.
  • The woman, identified as Kim, told WISN Channel 12 she's mad at Trump for promoting hydroxychloroquine. "You're not safe taking that medication at all," she added.

Hydroxychloroquine has been touted by President Donald Trump and others as a defense against the coronavirus. But a Wisconsin woman says she's been taking the drug for nearly two decades and was still diagnosed with COVID-19.

The woman, identified only as Kim, told WISN Channel 12 that she has been taking hydroxychloroquine for 19 years to treat flareups caused by lupus, an autoimmune disease. She began self-quarantining in March and worked to avoid exposure from other people, she said.

But in April she began to feel symptoms including fatigue, coughing, and fever.

"Weak all over. Coughing, fever. The fever was very high," Kim said. "It just went downhill from there. I couldn't breathe no more."

a close up of a hand holding a bottle: The FDA says hydroxychloroquine, typically prescribed to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases like lupus, has not been proven safe or effective against COVID-19. Associated Press © Associated Press The FDA says hydroxychloroquine, typically prescribed to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases like lupus, has not been proven safe or effective against COVID-19. Associated Press

She went to an urgent care clinic, where her oxygen saturation level was recorded at 78%, far below the healthy norm of 95%. She was sent to the emergency room at Aurora Medical Center, WISN reported, where she tested positive for the coronavirus.

Kim, who lives in Oconomowoc, says she was hospitalized for seven days and is still on external oxygen at home.

"When they gave the diagnosis, I felt like it was a death sentence. I was like, 'I'm going to die,'" she told WISN. "I'm like, 'How can I be sick? How? I'm on the hydroxychloroquine.' They were like, 'Well, nobody ever said that was the cure or that was going to keep you safe' and it definitely did not."

President Trump began promoting hydroxychloroquine in mid-March, when he announced at a press briefing that the drug would be made available "almost immediately" to treat COVID-19.

His advocacy for the medication resumed on Monday when he said he had been taking it for "a week and a half" after two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus.

"I get a lot of positive calls about it," he told reporters. "The only negative I've heard was the study where they gave it was at the VA with, you know, people that aren't big Trump fans gave it."

Hydroxychloroquine, which is usually prescribed to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has not been proven safe or effective in treating COVID-19, according to the FDA.

Early studies from China and France seemed to show COVID-19 patients recovering more quickly on the drug, but critics pointed out numerous flaws, including the lack of peer review and the small sample size.

On Fox News, senior health analyst Dr. Manny Alvarez called Trump's announcement he was taking the drug "highly irresponsible."

Kim says she's mad at the president for promoting hydroxychloroquine.

"You're not safe taking that medication at all," she added. Hydroxychloroquine "is not going to prevent anything. You can still get coronavirus."

Related video: President Trump taking hydroxycloroquine (provided by KTNV-TV Las Vegas)

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