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Hospital pharmacies continue to deal with growing drug shortage

Drug shortage

Parks Pharmacy Owner Steve McElmurray says the drug shortage is affecting prescription arthritis medication. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 23, 2011)

News 12 This Morning / Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's an ongoing battle to fill some of the bottles at Parks Pharmacy.

Owner Steve McElmurray says the drug shortage is affecting prescription arthritis medication.

"When they've come back in, they are 10 to 15 times their normal price," McElmurray said.

The problem doesn't end at your corner drugstore. Local hospitals are trying not to run out of the medication their patients need.

"The most concerning issue we had recently was some of our drugs used in the operating room. We had to keep close track of those," said Marie Jackson with University Hospital.

She says even crucial cancer drugs and medications used for critical care are experiencing shortages. That's why she's trying to plan ahead to keep the hospital's pharmacy shelves stocked.

"Last week we knew there was a shortage on a medication, calcium lactate," she said. "Looked to see if there was anything available. If there was, we got it."

Jackson said one reason for the shortage is the simple lack of supply.

"Many companies have decided that making certain drugs are no longer profitable," she said.

That's leading to greater demand and price gouging by some.

"The B12 product should be like $4 and it is coming in at $12, $14 $24," McElmurray said.

At the hospital, Jackson is constantly checking in with her medical staff to tell them about the latest shortage so they can plan for alternatives like trying another medication or lowering the dose.

"There are other institutions that have had to delay surgeries, particularly elective surgeries," Jackson said.

As the FDA continues to add to its list of problems, Jackson said she doesn't see the drug shortages disappearing anytime soon.

Pharmacists recommend if you are trying to fill a prescription that is hard to get ahold of, shop around. Your local pharmacy also may be able to contact other pharmacies in the area to see if they have certain medication in stock.

Pharmacists also say not to be afraid to ask questions about the drug shortage or generic brands that you may be able to use in place of a certain drug.


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