Increasing Demand For Medication
About 60% of Americans have chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, almost that same percentage takes prescription medicine. These shocking numbers mean there is an increasing need for medication. As a result, doctors and pharmacists struggle with drug availability and drug shortage issues. The drug shortage crisis, in particular, is creating several problems for doctors, hospitals, and patients who need to fill prescriptions. However, local pharmacists can help patients obtain the medication, keeping people healthy and safe even during shortages.
Patients and pharmacists alike will encounter drug availability and shortage problems. Drug availability has everything to do with distribution. When this problem happens, the drug is still in circulation but is not readily available for patients in a particular area. Reasons include higher demand, government regulations, pricing issues, or delivery delays. Sometimes, the manufacturer discontinues the drug leaving limited quantities in supply. These issues mean that most pharmacists cannot fill prescriptions.
Not enough medication
A drug shortage, on the other hand, means a supply issue prevents the pharmacist from filling the prescription. Shortages can be caused by manufacturing problems, supply chain issues, or an increase in demand. Sometimes, the active ingredient is difficult to source or is no longer in circulation. Shortages are a massive challenge for doctors and pharmacists. Therefore, pharmacists must get creative to ensure that patients still receive help. Here are 3 ways pharmacists can help patients fill prescriptions.
1. Using pharmacist connections
The pharmacist community is tight-knit, and most share the same problems when a medication shortage or availability issue arises. First, the pharmacist will check to see if the needed medication is in stock. Some can help patients fill prescriptions if the drug is unavailable locally by connecting with others pharmacies that may have a supply. Some have connections outside state lines or can use government-assisted programs to get the medicine. In the meantime, the pharmacist can direct the patient on how to take any existing medication and manage symptoms caused by low supply.
2. Are there alternatives?
Pharmacists are subject matter experts in medication. Therefore, if a drug is unavailable, the pharmacist can seek an alternative medication to discuss with the prescribing physician. This alternative could be a generic brand or a drug in the same class that also treats the condition. This option works particularly well for drug availability issues. In some cases, the patient will need a change in dosage to get the same effect as the out-of-stock drug.
3. Leveraging compounding
For drug availability and shortage issues, some pharmacists can use compounding. This process allows the pharmacist to create a customized drug specific to the patient. Compounding is primarily used for typical doses, managing multiple medications, or changing the form. However, compounding can duplicate the drug for the patient if a drug is unavailable. The pharmacist can combine the base ingredients to make a bespoke treatment. For shortages, compounding allows the pharmacist to recreate the same drug or use similar elements.
Pharmacists are not just people who dispense pills and offer advice on over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These highly trained professionals play a vital role in the healthcare system. In addition to filling prescriptions, pharmacists can also help patients with drug availability and drug shortage issues. Poor medication supply has the potential to derail treatment for millions. Trust in a pharmacist to help find a solution.