Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and a high demand season exacerbate drug shortages
Some common pharmaceuticals may be hard to come by in the months ahead as nationwide drug shortages are likely to last well into the new year.
Adderall, used to treat ADHD and the antibiotic amoxicillin are the most common drugs in short supply. But the FDA lists nearly 125 medications and medical devices that are currently in shortage.
The cause of the shortages: Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and a high demand season. Dr. Kelsey Schwander, Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Colorado Boulder Aschutz Medical Campus, says the effects of the pandemic are still lingering.
“Factories were shut down - the whole supply chain disruption. We're still seeing effects of that,” Dr. Schwander said “And then there's huge labor shortages as well.”
At the same time, demand for some drugs have spiked. “In the fall, a lot of pediatric patients are on Adderall for school.,” Schwander said. “And this is the first time most of the kids are fully back in school,” after years of remote and hybrid learning models, suggesting the return to school could have boosted demand for drugs treating attention disorders.
When it comes to amoxicillin, Dr. Schwander points to the rise in RSV this fall. Amoxicillin “doesn't treat RSV, but it treats the secondary infections with it,” Schwander explained. "So that's why we're seeing a shortage of that.” “So it's kind of like the perfect storm of timing pandemic, having these different diseases pop up that we normally don't have all concentrated in one time.”
“So it's kind of like the perfect storm of timing pandemic, having these different diseases pop up that we normally don't have all concentrated in one time.”Dr. Kelsey Schwander, Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Colorado Boulder Aschutz Medical Campus
Schwander says there’s no need to panic. She has two pieces of advice to make sure you’re not stuck high and dry without the medication that you need: plan ahead and get to know your pharmacist.
“Patients can be proactive,” Schwander said. People on a maintenance medication, like Adderall, that they take regularly, should make sure they are an automatic refill, “so the pharmacy can kind of gauge how much they need to be purchasing ahead of time,” Schwander said.
It’s also a good idea to just talk to your pharmacist, because they are uniquely equipped to help you find alternative medications when your prescription is out of stock.
“I think a lot of people forget that, [pharmacists] are doctors and you can walk up to the counter and talk to us,” Schwander said. “We're one of the most accessible health care providers.”
If your medication is out of stock, your pharmacist will be more than happy to tell you “you know what, I'm struggling getting this,” Schwander said. “But I have an alternative that I think would be good. Let me call your doctor and see if I can switch it.”