Supply shortages extend to available medications

By Kate Klimesh,

With the global economy reliant on shipping – and concurrent issues with shipping and trucking across the country – some necessary items are hard to come by. And now, certain medications are following suit. 

Supply shortages, while seemingly common since the pandemic, indeed make stocking a household difficult. With the global economy reliant on shipping – and concurrent issues with shipping and trucking across the country – some necessary items are hard to come by. And now, certain medications are following suit. 
The Food and Drug Administration has seen manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad continue to experience quality issues as well as struggle with capacity constraints. Additionally, as demand increased for numerous drugs over the last year, the FDA reported seeing additional strain on the pharmaceutical supply chain.
According to the FDA website, over 120 drugs are in a known drug shortage at this moment. In 2021, there were 83 ongoing shortages. The full list is available at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/drugshortages/default.cfm. 

Locally
Donlon Pharmacy’s Mark Branum, RPh, PharmD, discussed some of the major impacts from current drug shortages.  
“Yes — there are definitely ‘shortages’ of many drugs right now, including amoxicillin suspensions (for kids that can’t swallow pills) and albuterol nebulizer solutions. We do have both in stock, but they are very commonly out of stock or on ‘allocation’ currently, where maybe we can only order one bottle every day or every few days, for example.”
These shortages can make filling a prescription more difficult, but some drugs are more often prescribed than others.  “There are a lot of drugs that we’re having issues with; the most widespread shortages have been with the ADD/ADHD meds like methylphenidate (generic Ritalin) or amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall generics). There are many of those that we haven’t been able to get in for several months,” Branum reported.
Adderall prescriptions have increased by 20 percent from previous years in 2021, when prescriptions for the drug were able to be given via telehealth visits with physicians during the pandemic.
According to the FDA, Teva – the leading U.S. manufacturer of Adderall – has been experiencing “ongoing intermittent manufacturing delays. Other manufacturers continue to produce amphetamine mixed salts, but there is not sufficient supply to continue to meet U.S. market demand through those producers.” Teva was reported to have blamed the shortage of available workers as the reason behind delays in manufacturing.
Branum added, “The other current problem areas are over the counter medications like children’s ibuprofen suspension (generic Motrin); we were finally able to get in quite a bit of Tylenol suspension, but we cannot get the generic currently (acetaminophen suspension).”

Seasonal illness impact
While the FDA does not currently list this range of medications as in a shortage, having the winter wave of respiratory illnesses like RSV, influenza and COVID all culminate in communities across the country over the past month and a half has taken a toll on available product. 
According to the Canadian Newspaper, National Post Nov. 9 article, Canada had been in the midst of a Children’s Tylenol and Ibuprofen shortage for the past six months, with the U.S. and Australia supplying Canada’s hospitals, but not Canadian pharmacies.
Now, it seems the triple threat of winter illnesses has created a shortage of children’s pain reliever here at home as well. When seeking children’s pain reliever suspension, start with your local pharmacy, but don’t forget about other pharmacies, grocery stores and retailers that carry the product to see if they have any stock.
Remember, pharmacies and stores want to provide the medication needed as best they can, it does no good to take shortages in products out on staff working. Until the supply stocks are replenished, the best thing to do is be patient, and use what is available that fits the prescription and medical needs. For that, it’s best to consult with a personal healthcare provider and local pharmacist. 

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