NCPA Survey: Nearly 90% of Community Pharmacists Report Drug Shortages

April 16, 2020

“Pharmacists are the safety net for their communities…we must ensure that these pharmacies have access to the tools they need to fight this pandemic and continue being there for patients in the future.”

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) announced the results from their latest survey, which found that nearly 90% of neighborhood pharmacies have experienced drug shortages since March 1, 2020, according to a press release.1,2

As the United States health care system wears thin in the face of COVID-19, the survey asserted that drugs being used to fight the virus are among the scarcest, according to local pharmacies.1

“In communities across the country, the neighborhood pharmacist is the closest health care provider to the patient,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, PharmD, MBA.1 “We’re trying to meet the community’s needs – whether a patient has an existing condition or someone is facing a new diagnosis – with limited resources. Getting the medicines our patients need is a serious challenge.”

Among the most common drug shortages reported by neighborhood pharmacists were albuterol inhalers, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, as well as others that have seen spikes in demand since the outbreak began.2 Hydroxychloroquine has seen particularly high demand after President Trump expressed its potential for treating severe COVID-19 symptoms; the American Medical Association (AMA), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) have recently communicated concerns on inappropriate dispensing of hydroxychloroquine.

Pharmacists remain on the frontlines of the pandemic; last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decided to allow licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests, and the NCPA survey showed that more than half of neighborhood pharmacies plan to perform point-of-care COVID-19 testing once available. Pharmacists have also taken additional steps to aid in the pandemic, including compounding hand sanitizer to donate to first responders and hospitals, where it’s needed most.

“Pharmacists work hard to manage supplies and find solutions or alternative, safe, and effective treatment options for patients when some drugs are in short supply,” Hoey said.1 “The potential disruptions to the drug supply chain we’re seeing are troubling. As we look beyond COVID-19 and move to make our health care system more resilient, policymakers must look at ways to increase transparency regarding shortages and to bring more generic drug manufacturing here to the US.”

“Neighborhood pharmacists are the safety net for their communities, retooling their practices to safely fulfill patient needs during this extraordinary time,” Hoey continued.1 “We must ensure that these pharmacies have access to the tools they need to fight this pandemic and continue being there for patients into the future.”

The full survey results can be found here.

References:

1. 90 Percent of Community Pharmacists Report Drug Shortages as COVID-19 Strains System. News Release. NCPA; April 16, 2020. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2020/04/16/90-percent-community-pharmacists-report-drug-shortages-covid-19. Accessed April 16, 2020.
2. Report for Pharmacy Economic Health: Coronavirus Pandemic Survey. NCPA; Published April 15, 2020. Accessed April 16, 2020. http://www.ncpa.co/pdf/coronavirus-survey-4-15-20.pdf.