As the coronavirus continues to spread around the country, people are rushing to pharmacies to stock up on items like facemasks, hand sanitizers and other health products, such as disinfectants, cold and flu medications
Chain pharmacies and government agencies are doing everything they can to help meet this demand.
Pharmacies are almost completely sold out of facemasks and hand sanitizers. Even online suppliers like Amazon and Walmart are running out of affordable hand sanitizers. From about the end of January to the end of February, sales of medical facemasks jumped almost 320 percent and hand sanitizer almost 75 percent. Kroger has put limits on the number of cold and flu drugs and hand sanitizers customers can buy.
Pharmacies are working closely with suppliers to meet the demand for these items, and to provide alternatives, according to the National Association of Chain Drugstores (NACDS). People may be buying facemasks under the mistaken impression that they can prevent a person from contracting the disease, the Association noted. But, as the CDC has warned, facemasks cannot prevent infection, but they can prevent those who are infected from spreading it to others. It is also important to conserve supplies of masks because they are critical for healthcare workers when caring for patients.
The FDA has also just announced the first drug shortage stemming from the pandemic. However, the agency cannot release the name of the drug without the manufacturer’s permission. The maker of the drug is refusing permission because naming it would reveal the source of the active ingredient in the medication. The drug has been placed on the FDA’s list of drug shortages, and other alternatives are available.
The Association is also closely monitoring information released by the FDA about the supply of drugs. According to the NACDS, there are some 20 drug ingredients and drug products that are produced only in China. However, none of these drugs are used to treat COVID-19, and there are currently no supply disruptions. The Association, however, is asking states to formulate contingency plans should drug shortages arise.
The NACDS has also made a number of policy recommendations to the federal government to enable pharmacies to better meet patients’ needs during the pandemic, including:
+ allowing provider status to pharmacists so they can deliver services to patients related to the coronavirus and other conditions to take the pressure off of physicians and other care providers
+ allowing pharmacists to treat patients for flu, strep, and other minor ailments
+ allowing pharmacists to make substitutions for medications in short supply
+ allowing pharmacists to operate across state lines
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