What could ease the nationwide drug shortage? Here's what a local pharmacist says

Posted at 6:57 AM, Apr 15, 2024

(WXYZ) — New data is showing there are more active drug shortages than ever in the United States. The last time we saw a peak was in 2014 with 320 drugs in active shortage. Now, we're at a record high of 323 drugs in shortage for the first three months of the year.

Amid the struggle, I went to a Livonia pharmacist to see what shortages they're experiencing and why.

Rudy Najm, the pharmacist at iPharmacy in Livonia, said he hears from his patients all the time about the shortage.

"I have to drive 5 hours to find this prescription, my pharmacy doesn’t carry it. We hear that all the time," Najm said. "It's been an ongoing issue for the last few years."

Najm tells me a large part of the problem is "made in China." He said most of the prescriptions are either made in China or India, not the U.S.

"I would really have to look very hard to find a prescription made here locally or in the U.S. You can’t you can’t find one, so we have a problem," he said.

The categories of drugs with the most shortages are hormone agents, chemotherapies, intravenous fluids, central nervous system stimulants and antimicrobials.

Najm tells me he's seen a lot of people searching high and low for weight loss drugs and Adderal in particular.

"That’s another part of it, is high demand. ADHD is on the rise," he said.

According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office, the average shortage affects at least half a million patients, many of whom are older adults.

The partnership for safe medicines says another large reason for the shortages is that over the past decade, pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMS, have been cutting the reimbursements that pharmacies receive for the medicine they sell to insured patients.

In many cases, the reimbursement pharmacies receive now don't even cover the cost of the medicine, so pharmacies lose money by selling the medicine.

"Do you think this is a problem that we will continue to see get worse?" I asked.

"As of right now the problem is getting worse," he said.

But, there is hope. The U.S. Health and Human Services Office has published a paper outlining policy suggestions that would change how drug manufacturers distribute their product.

Njam also believes creating more drugs in the U.S. would help largely. One thing is for sure, federal work needs to be done to get to the root cause of these shortages.

"If there is a shortage for a drug that a person is looking for, can they work with their pharmacist to find a solution?" I asked.

"That would be a great idea actually. We work with your pharmacist, the pharmacist knows you very well, he knows you need and he always have an alternative for you," Njam said.

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