Pharmacies face drug shortages amid global supply chain bottlenecks

The pandemic has exacerbated drug shortages, and pharmacies across the country have reported struggling to keep enough medications in stock. 

UVA Health in Charlottesville told CBS News its pharmacy technicians are filling single-dose drug orders for nearly 700 patients. 

Roche's anti-inflammatory drug Actemra, which is needed by both chemotherapy patients and COVID-19 patients, has been particularly short at the health system, CBS News reported. The system decided to reserve it for chemotherapy patients and deny it to COVID-19 patients. 

"It does mean that some patients are getting the drug that I would not ideally want to give them," said Patrick Jackson, MD, an infectious disease physician at UVA Health, told CBS News

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists told CBS News that three of the top five shortages are drugs used for chemotherapy, heart conditions and antibiotics. 

Brian Spoehlhof, PharmD, a UVA Health assistant pharmacy manager, told CBS News that he is constantly looking for about 90 critical drugs. 

In Tennessee, Shawn Pruitt, owner of independent pharmacy Pruitt's Discount Pharmacy in Nashville, told NewsChannel 5 Nashville: "If you take a look at the FDA's list of drug shortages, most of them are of the injectible drugs, but not solely limited to medication, we have had shortages of prescription vials, containers to put the medication in."

Mr. Pruitt told the publication that logjams at international ports have worsened drug shortages. 

"You have to keep in mind these products are manufactured overseas… Even if the product left on time, because there are 80 other ships waiting to be unloaded and not enough people to unload, it's going to be a problem," he said. 

He told NewsChannel 5 he expects the worst of the supply chain logjams won't be over until the end of this year or beginning of next year. 

Traisha Campfield, a pharmacist in Elgin, S.C., told News19 Oct. 25 that in South Carolina: "Really, it’s a variety. I know this morning, there's a few blood pressure medications that we can't get in stock right now. Every day, it seems kind of something new; something will come in stock, and something else isn't available."

She said her pharmacy has seen medication shortages affect both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. 

In Michigan, Vishal Nayak, a retail pharmacist, told ABC 12 that one of the most difficult medications to get is inhalers. Dr. Nayak typically dispenses 10 to 15 inhalers daily, but that number has dropped to one or two.


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