What Pharmacies Are Doing to Mitigate Shortages Due to COVID-19

March 5, 2020

Plus, ASHP comments on the latest drug shortage.

Chain pharmacies and US government agencies are doing everything they can to mitigate shortages of facemasks, hand sanitizers, and other products as consumers rush to purchase supplies due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) fears.

"The extreme demand in some areas certainly is affecting supplies," Chris Krese, spokesperson for NACDS, told Drug Topics®.

Meanwhile, the FDA announced the first drug shortage due to COVID-19, but declined to list the drug in shortage.

The agency is unable to disclose the drug without the manufacturer's permission because doing so would reveal the location of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) source that the manufacturer uses, Michael Ganio, PharmD, FASHP, director of Pharmacy Practice and Quality for ASHP, told Drug Topics®. “This information is considered proprietary. However, the drug is already on the FDA drug shortages list and FDA has noted that alternatives therapies can be used by patients.”

At the same time, news reports say that hand sanitizers and facemasks have been virtually stripped from store shelves, and that Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers’ web sites are running out of affordable hand sanitizers.1 Medical mask sales soared 319% and hand sanitizer sales soared 73% for the 4 weeks leading up to February 22, according to Nielsen data, CNBC reported.2

Kroger is limiting how many cold and flu-related products-along with sanitizers-that its customers can buy.

"Due to high demand and to support all customers, we will be limiting the number of sanitization, cold and flu-related products to 5 each per order," Kroger said on its website. The policy applies to Kroger’s e-commerce orders only.

NACDS chain members are “working closely with suppliers to manage these situations to best meet the needs of customers, and to consider alternatives when appropriate,” the organization said in a statement, while declining to provide specifics on items that are in short supply.3

“NACDS appreciates the efforts of government authorities to help inform the public about the nature of COVID-19 and what it means for some of the product-supply situations that have arisen, particularly with regard to facemasks,” NACDS said.

According to NACDS, the CDC was particularly helpful when it said, “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).”

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued similar guidance in a tweet last week, noting, ”They [facemasks] are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”.

Meanwhile, NACDS said that Americans trust pharmacies and pharmacists for information about medications, and about other issues of health and wellness.

“The public appreciates the accessibility of pharmacies and pharmacists, and knows pharmacies and pharmacists have been there for them before,” NACDS said.

During the H1N1 flu outbreak a decade ago, “consumers and authorities alike really came to appreciate the ability of pharmacists to serve as highly accessible sources for vaccinations,” NACDS said. “They also have appreciated in recent years the ability of pharmacies and pharmacists to help provide hard-to-find medications such as those used to treat the symptoms of the flu. Pharmacies also are known for their dedication amid natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires.”

 

Disclosures:

1. Creswell J. ‘Where Do I Find Your Hand Sanitizer?’ Sorry, We Have None. The New York Times. Published February 29, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/business/coronavirus-hand-sanitizer.html

2. Thomas L. Shoppers flocks to Costco over coronavirus fears, analyst expecting sales boost; shares rise. CNBC. Published March 2, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/02/shoppers-flock-to-costco-over-coronavirus-fears-analyst-expecting-sales-boost.html.

3. NACDS. Statement: COVID-19. NACDS’ website. https://www.nacds.org/pdfs/government/2020/NACDS-COVID-19-Statement.pdf.