As consumers in America, all of the information you need is at your fingertips. You might have found out about current drug shortages when your pharmacy raised the cost for prescription drugs, or when you couldn't get a certain medication while in the hospital. Your increased rates of necessary medications may be due to many reasons. For example, when Hurricane Maria affected Puerto Rico in September 2017, it also affected the availability of important medications produced in 80 different factories in Puerto Rico. This shortage was widely known--especially by people who needed those meds, and those having to pay for them. However, there are many reasons for a drug shortage. A drug shortage means:
- A possible change in cost
- A possible change in treatment
Understanding Drug Shortages A-Z
When first visiting the FDA Drug Shortages webpage, you'll find an alphabetized list of medications. There is also a search box to locate your drug by using generic name or active ingredient. When you click on a medication name, you will find yourself at a report that identifies the presentation of medication, availability and estimated shortage duration, related information, and the reason for the shortage categorized by company name. The main reasons for a disruption in supply include: quality, discontinuation of product, raw materials shortage, other component shortages, increased demands, and loss of manufacturing site.
As of April 2018, current drug shortages include 154 drugs ranging from various injections, to antiobiotics, and even necessary vaccinations. The biggest issue among hospitalized patients happens to be injectable pain medications. Injectable forms of morphine, fentanyl, and dilaudid are at low levels in U.S. hospitals. A shortage of local anesthetics is affecting how patients are receiving care, and increasing the need for other medications. The shortage originally caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has resulted in more demand of other drugs. Drug shortages cycle through history, yet this is the worst the United States has seen in a few decades. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, long-term active and ongoing shortages are not resolving.
What You Can Do
When you're planning a hospital stay, make sure your doctor and the surgical staff knows your complete medical history and current medication list, including allergies. Discuss your plan of care with your doctor prior to your hospital stay.
Do not seek off-market medications when your medication is experiencing a shortage. Going outside the U.S. to purchase medications is illegal and unsafe. When making your purchases, make sure you're using a legitimate online pharmacy that must adhere to FDA guidelines.
Finally, get to know your insurance coverage and Rx plan. It may be that your insurance company covers a comparable medication due to a shortage. It's everyone's goal that the quality of patient care stays consistent in the U.S.