The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that many parts of the country were hit by supply chain disruptions and labor shortages in November.
While these problems have continued into December – with price increases reported to be widespread across the U.S. economy – empty shelves aren’t the only issue for Americans.
Pharmacies are reportedly running out of important prescription medications, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows there are about 111 drugs on backorder – including heart medications, antibiotics and cancer drugs.
The agency said on its website that it “continues 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,” it wrote.
Customers walk by products locked in security cabinets at a Walgreens store that is set to be closed in the coming weeks on Oct. 13, 2021 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images / Getty Images)
The FDA highlights that there are a number of reasons why drug shortages can occur, including manufacturing and quality problems, delays and discontinuations.
“Manufacturers provide FDA most drug shortage information, and the agency works closely with them to prevent or reduce the impact of shortages,” it said, also reporting that about 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturers are located outside the U.S.
A November survey released by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) found that the majority of independent pharmacy owners and managers are struggling to fill staff positions and deal with supply chain disruptions, in addition to market pressures.
Sixty percent of respondents said they are dealing with supply chain disruptions and nearly 70% reported struggling to fill staff positions.
According to the group, 76% reported being concerned about possible tax increases on small businesses and 64% were also worried about inflation.
Only 31% of respondents described the overall financial health of their business as very good or somewhat good, 28% described it as average and 41% described it as 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 said in an accompanying statement. “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.”
“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 said. “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.”