Independent pharmacies join to confront med shortages

Daisy Thomason, certified pharmacy technician, checks her supply of medications on March 25 at Owensboro Family Pharmacy and Wellness.

Faced with nationwide medication shortages, independent pharmacies Owensboro Family Pharmacy and Wellness, Emory Centre Pharmacy and Lincoln Pharmacy Inc. have joined together to help stem the tide.

The global pharmaceutical supply chain is heavily reliant on both China and India. While most of the raw material drug production is in China, it’s then exported to India where the final product is made. With continuing border lockdowns around the world due to the coronavirus, especially India’s announcement of “stringent lockdowns” on Monday, concerns surrounding the supply chain are mounting.

Pharmacy Tech Daisy Thomason, former owner of Don and Daisy’s Pharmacy Plus — now Owensboro Family Pharmacy and Wellness — said that the pharmacy has been preparing for this since December.

“We have been following what was going on internationally,” she said. “I have a niece who is in China and she let us know when things started there in December and January. So, we started stocking up.”

While planning has been key for local pharmacies, there are still certain medicines that have been scarce or that have had ordering caps imposed, she said.

“Things like breathing inhalers have been in short supply and manufacturers are limiting their supply,” she said. “Inhalers like ProAir, Ventolin and Albuteral have been short, but we are starting to get them back. There have also been supply issues with the diabetic drug Farxiga. We have been filling a 90-day supply for people.”

While there have been shortages on the “name-brand” medicines, pharmacists have been able to order “substitute-drugs,” she said.

“Say one of your inhalers is on backorder,” she said. “We are ordering backups that would substitute those. We have been working with doctors to change the prescriptions. Right now, I am not scared at all. We have a group of independent local pharmacies that are working together and aiding each other.”

One key aspect that has allowed the three pharmacies to be able to help each other is that each of them utilize different wholesalers to fill their respective medicinal needs, said Emory Centre pharmacist Travis Sewell.

“There are things that come up short, so we all buy from someone different,” he said. “This has helped us help each other out a lot of times when we need it. We haven’t had a lot of shortages at the moment. A lot of the things that we have come up short on are due to people panic-buying. At the moment, we are able to get what we need.”

While local pharmacists have been proactive in weathering what could be a major issue as COVID-19 progresses, there are “over the counter” materials that are in short supply, said Robert Hoskins, Lincoln Pharmacy’s business manager.

“As far as medicines, I have kept an eye on the things produced in China to make sure that we have an extra bottle or two,” he said. “We aren’t stockpiling by any means, but keep an adequate supply to keep us going for a couple of months. The real shortages are over the counter products like alcohol, gloves and thermometers. A representative from the National Guard called me on Tuesday looking for thermometers. You are going to have a hard time finding them if they are making calls like that.”

Outside of Owensboro, a list is being circulated with pharmacists across the state signing up to step in if a fellow pharmacist falls ill, Sewell said.

“More important than our sharing medicine is that the independent pharmacists around the state are coming together,” he said. “A group of us have gotten together and are asking pharmacists around the state to support one another to ensure that, even if one of us gets sick, that we can continue to support our communities. More and more are signing up daily. It is exciting to see us band together.”

While all three hope that when the COVID-19 pandemic passes, the federal government will take steps to build stronger medicine production in the U.S., for now, things are under control, said Hoskins.

“A lot of what we are seeing now is that the drug companies and suppliers are allocating what can be delivered,” he said. “That is what we are running into. As things stand, they seem to be getting a handle on things. If we run into a situation like over in Italy, that will be a different story.

“Here in Owensboro, we are fortunate. It is easy to see the different independent pharmacies as competitors, and we are, but we are all in this together we are in the same boat. That is the point of having a strong community — having people that you can turn to that are facing the same issues. We are all in this together.”

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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