Empty shelves, shipping delays: pharmacists feel supply chain problems

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Long Island pharmacists say they face longer waits for medical equipment and a reduced stock of common over-the-counter drugs, mainly due to the supply chain crisis that has blocked circulation of goods around the world.

Safeguarding the supply chain makes it more difficult to obtain certain prescription drugs and everyday items, from cough medications and pain relievers to feminine products, as well as vital equipment such as ventilators and ingredients for testing. COVID-19. The wait time for some medical supplies is between four and nine months, experts in the commerce industry have said.

What there is to know

Long Island Pharmacists Say They See shortages of items including over-the-counter colds, pain relievers and feminine products due to the global supply chain crisis.

Experts say Long Islanders should resist storing items, which only exacerbates the problem.

People who need certain drugs and supplies should regularly research alternative sources, including online retailers.

Tom D’Angelo, president of the Pharmacists Society of New York State, said he has also experienced delays in accessing generic blood pressure pills, as well as cold and cold medications. flu.

“We’re in the same position as everyone else,” said D’Angelo, who runs Americare Home Infusion Pharmacy in Garden City and Franklin Square Pharmacy in Franklin Square. “A lot of things are stuck on barges.”

D’Angelo was referring to supplies sitting on ships in California ports. “People find it difficult to get articles, but so far it is not life threatening,” he added.

Supply factories around the world shut down or slowed production when the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. At the same time, demand for products from healthcare professionals and homebound consumers exploded. . Shipping containers have become scarce as it has become more difficult to move items by air, sea and land. And a labor shortage has slowed the ability to move cargo from stranded ships in ports and onto trucks.

“On the contrary, COVID has opened a lot of eyes to supply chain issues,” said Ron Tabbitas, director of program development at the Association for Supply Chain Management, New York City / Long Island Forum. “The majority of raw materials come from China, and a lot of material production takes place in both India and China, and that needs to change.”

Tabbitas said factories that closed at the start of the pandemic were unable to start producing at the same volume when they reopened. Then there is the challenge of getting the materials to the United States through a late shipping system.

“You can’t just flip the switch in the supply chain to get back to where you were,” Tabbitas said. “It takes time to relaunch it, complicated by growing demand.”

Large pharmaceutical companies in the United States depend heavily on suppliers from countries like China and India to help them manufacture many of their most popular prescription and over-the-counter drugs. About 80% of manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients are located outside of the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Shortages have increased in recent weeks

Some pharmacists have said they started noticing shortages last spring and summer as the situation has worsened in recent weeks.

“We are starting to have problems with cough and allergy medications,” said Mukesh Patel, a pharmacist who owns Brookhaven Pharmacy in Patchogue. “We haven’t seen the full impact yet.”

The FDA database lists over 100 drugs in short supply.

“There are fewer options when it comes to some brands, as well as controlled scheduled drugs,” said Nidhin Mohan, pharmacist and owner of New Island Pharmacy in Deer Park, referring to pain relievers such as Percocet and Vicodin. “Everything I ordered and received the next day is now delayed and delayed. “

Mohan said that even brand name ibuprofen like Advil and Motrin is in short supply.

He said that many prescription drugs are still available because manufacturers make the same drug in different formulations.

“There are fewer options,” Mohan said. “When it becomes a shortage or a complete exhaustion of available options – I don’t know. I’m starting to feel the pressure. “

Denise Daniell-Aleszczyk, director / buyer of 100 Pharmacy and Surgical Home Health Care Center in Melville, said she is seeing shortages at the three wholesalers the store uses.

“It’s really hit and miss,” she said, noting that the shortages range from diabetic supplies to incontinence supplies and feminine care products.

If certain medications aren’t available, Daniell-Aleszczyk said, they contact a client’s doctor to see if there is an alternative they can try.

“For the most part, we were able to make it work,” she said.

Supply chain issues have also made it more difficult to obtain certain types of medical equipment and spare parts.

The FDA’s list of missing devices includes ventilators, personal protective equipment such as gloves and surgical gowns, and reagents needed to perform lab tests.

A shortage of PPE at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 forced many large healthcare systems to find alternative sources and increase their inventories.

Non-medical staff who hope to find masks in their local stores are often disappointed.

“We have issues with the surgical supplies,” Patel said. “Gloves and masks are still not 100% fully available. “

Mohan said a simple order for a medicine cart, which is typically in stock and ships from a warehouse within two days, is not available.

“It will probably take a month and a half – maybe,” he said.

In search of solutions

There has been some relief in backing up the supply chain in recent weeks, as the Biden administration has worked with two of the country’s largest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., To get them to can start operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, UPS and FedEx have increased the amount of goods moved during off-peak hours.

Finding alternative sources of drugs and medical supplies is important for consumers as well as for healthcare providers, said Thomas Cook, of trade consultancy firm Blue Tiger International in East Moriches and director of Long Island Trade. Association.

“There is nothing anyone can do to prevent the problem from happening,” Cook said. “The only thing they can do is take action to mitigate the impact. The delays are now four to nine months.”

He said people with health conditions requiring certain supplies or medication should go beyond their usual pharmacy for others, including those housed in supermarkets.

“People should also be looking at the world of e-commerce,” Cook said, referring to sites such as Amazon and Mercari. “They have huge stocks similar to what you would see in a neighborhood drugstore.”

Cook said people should resist the urge to stockpile items such as medicine, toilet paper, paper towels and food as it compounds the problem in the supply chain.

“Consumers demand more products than they need,” he said.


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