Oklahoma woman worries her arthritis inflammation medication will become unavailable because it’s in high demand for COVID-19 treatment


A typo in the original version has been corrected.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma woman is scared her arthritis inflammation will increase after her clinic told her the medication she uses may become unavailable. Medical professionals at the Oklahoma Arthritis Center say the medication, Actemra, has been in high demand to treat COVID patients in hospitals.

“COVID is not just affecting those patients in the hospital,” explained Alicia Johnson. “It’s affecting patients like me who can’t get their medications anymore because of the COVID surge. They’re using my arthritis medication to help COVID patients.”

Johnson said Actemra is the only relief to an arthritis that aches her shoulders, back, knees and ankle.

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Alicia Johnson

It’s infused into her body once a month. The staff at the Oklahoma Arthritis Center tell her she’s unlikely to keep getting it because of a shortage. The medication is in high demand by hospitals treating their COVID patients with it.

“I’m very upset,” Johnson said. “I’ve tried four different medications before this one. None of them worked. I was in a lot of pain. My inflammation numbers were high.”

The center’s medical director Dr. Craig Carson said he and his team call Actemra distributors every day, but supply is low.

“You have hospitals buying Actemra to treat COVID patients, and, of course, they get priority over arthritis patients,” he explained. “So, there’s really none that we can get.”

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He knows Johnson is nervous about trying other treatments.

“And we’re nervous for her,” he said. “I don’t want her to go without. I want to be able to treat her. I certainly don’t want to be put in the position of which of my patients get treated and which do not.”

Johnson hopes the COVID pandemic comes to an end soon, and access to Actemra returns to normal.

“I understand it’s needed, but I also need my medication too,” she said.

Johnson did receive Actemra for the month of August. Her next infusion is scheduled for September 27. In the likely case that they don’t have Actemra, doctors will try another medication.

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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