Pharmacies hit by supply chain crisis, more than 100 drugs on backorder

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that many parts of the United States were beset with labor shortages and supply chain disruptions last month, with the issues carrying over into December, causing price spikes throughout the economy.

However, Fox Business reported, shortages of consumer goods have now spread to pharmacies, a growing number of which are reporting running out of prescription medications.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), around 111 drugs are on backorder throughout the U.S. to include cancer medications, heart drugs, and antibiotics.

The FDA noted on its website that officials are continuing “to take steps to monitor the supply chain.”

“The Drug Shortage Staff within the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) has asked manufacturers to evaluate their entire supply chain, including active pharmaceutical ingredients, finished dose forms and any components that may be impacted in any area of the supply chain due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” the website said.

The agency went on to note that there are several reasons why there can be shortages of medications, which include manufacturing chokepoints and quality control issues. Delays in shipping and the discontinuation of other medications also add to the problem of unavailability.

“Manufacturers provide FDA most drug shortage information, and the agency works closely with them to prevent or reduce the impact of shortages,” the agency said, going on to report that about 80 percent of active makers of pharmaceutical ingredients are not located within the United States.

According to a November survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), most independent pharmacy owners and managers said they are having problems trying to fill staff positions and are constantly dealing with supply chain issues, as well as other market pressures.

Of the respondents, 60 percent said they have been trying to navigate supply chain disruptions, while a bigger number, 70 percent, said they are having labor issues and cannot fill positions.

Around 76 percent said they are also worried about potential tax increases on small businesses as part of Democrats’ and President Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation, and nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, said they are concerned about inflation.

Fewer than one-third of respondents (31 percent) believe the overall soundness of their business is “very good” or “somewhat good,” while just 28 percent described it as average. Forty-one percent said their overall business health is somewhat poor or very poor.

“Pharmacists have worked heroically throughout the pandemic so to have insurance middlemen push so many of these small business owners to the edge is troubling,” NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey noted in a statement accompanying the survey. “Policymakers in Congress, the Biden administration and in the states should keep this in mind.”

“There are important policy changes they can make to lower drug prices for seniors and protect small businesses, like eliminating pharmacy DIR fees,” Hoey continued.

“Between rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines for children, boosters, and seasonal flu shots – on top of their other existing patient care services – pharmacies are stretched very thin, while patients need them more than ever,” he added. “Independent pharmacies are the safety nets protecting their communities, and owners are working overtime, docking their own pay and doing everything they can to answer the call.

“Policymakers must repair the broken prescription drug payment model to better support pharmacy teams; successful pharmacies mean healthier, happier lives for patients,” Hoey noted further.

Tom D’Angelo, the chair of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, told Newsday earlier this week that “a lot of stuff is stuck on barges,” like generic blood pressure medicines and common cold/flu remedies.

“People are struggling to get items, but so far this is not life-threatening,” he added.

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