TROY, Mo. ( -- People who suffer from certain chronic illnesses are finding it difficult to get the medication they need amid the growing pressure to find treatments for the novel coronavirus. 

"For the first time I am unable to get my prescription filled locally. And I've checked other towns and I'm unable to get a prescription filled," said Chris Engler of Farmington.

Chris Engler says she's been taking hydroxychloroquine to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis for 26 years. But anecdotal stories of the drug being used effectively to treat coronavirus have caused demand to skyrocket and supplies to shrink.

Hydroxychloroquine has been used to treat and prevent malaria since 1949. It has also been approved for the treatment of autoimmune diseases like lupus and arthritis.

Engler says she understands why there's so much hope about it being used to treat coronavirus.

"But after being on this for 26 years, I have never experienced the flu or a cold," said Engler.

There are no long-term controlled studies to prove hydroxychloroquine can safely and effectively treat coronavirus. The drug has been used on an uncontrolled basis to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients in several countries, including the U.S.

If left untreated, lupus can be debilitating to those living with the autoimmune disease and sometimes can be fatal.

"I just wanted to make people aware that there are people depending on this medication for their pre-existing conditions," said Engler.

Clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine in use before and after someone is infected with the coronavirus have already begun in several companies. Clinical trials are expected to start soon in the U.S.

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