CAROLINA FOREST, SC (WBTW) – Plaquenil or hydroxychloroquine sulfate, a drug those with lupus and arthritis take for swelling and pain, has seen both a national and local shortage.

The pharmacist at Carolina Forest Pharmacy tells News13 there’s a shortage in the drug because people have been panic buying it, scared that they will run out.

He says they are ‘panic buying it’, meaning patients are asking for early refills, worried they’ll be affected by the shortage, causing pharmacies to have to stock up on the drug. Ibrahim says another cause for the shortage and panic buying is patients using the drug to treat COVID-19 instead of its original purpose for arthritis or lupus.

“They came. They asked. They called,” said Pharmacist Sam Ibrahim about his patients who take hydroxychloroquine sulfate. “Is it available? Can we get it now or next refill? Can we get it a little early?”

This, after President Donald Trump said it could be a “game changer” in treating COVID-19.

But, Ibrahim says there’s not been a treatment approved to treat COVID-19 just yet.

He did hear from doctors, however, at both McLeod and Grand Strand Health hospitals that a plasma treatment has shown good results.

He was able to stock up on hydroxychloroquine sulfate for his patients when he heard a shortage was on the horizon.

But, what about the reports of people taking aquarium cleaner, also known as chloroquine phosphate to treat COVID-19 at home?

“Please don’t do that,” said Ibrahim. “This is not something to do at home.”

In fact, on Friday, the FDA warned the drug could cause heart problems if taken outside of the hospital.

“That’s why it is extremely important to have that relationship with a physician, monitoring the drug levels, monitoring if it’s age appropriate, monitoring the other medications the patient is on,” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim says his pharmacy is communicating with local doctors to make sure the medicine isn’t being used improperly.

“That way you are only using it for the people who truly need it,” he said. “It’s not going on a shelf or in a drawer just for the fear of not having it in the future.”

Ibrahim tells News13 it’s important to consult with your doctor to understand what treatments are best for you if you do test positive for COVID-19.