Hurricane Damage May Cause Drug Shortages

two prescription bottles with pills next to them
Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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The United States, Puerto Rico, and many islands in the Carribean have recently faced an immense amount of destruction thanks to mother nature. Several hurricanes and tropical storms have devastated many areas, causing destruction to communities, widespread power-outages, and quite possibly, drug shortages.

How could this cause a shortage?

Around 10% of drugs prescribed in the United States are manufactured in Puerto Rico. Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Baxter are just a few of the many manufacturers that have facilities located in Puerto Rico.

In response to these natural disasters, the FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, M.D., issued a statement regarding the potential for drug shortages. According to the FDA Commissioner, the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for nearly 90,000 jobs and for 72.4% of Puerto Rico’s 2016 exports totaling $14.5 billion.  

You can read more of this statement here.

What drugs have been affected?

The types of medications and medical products produced in Puerto Rico include HIV and cancer drugs, immunosuppressants used by organ transplant patients, diabetes devices, and even hospital IV bags.

What is being done to address the shortages?

In order to address current and future problems, the FDA has been working with pharmaceutical companies to create a task force to prioritize efforts and address the potential for medical product shortages.

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) the FDA is tracking 40 critical medications — 12 that are not produced outside of Puerto Rico — that are at risk of being in short supply because of hurricane-related manufacturing delays.  

While there are no shortages yet, a small number may appear in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned, we will keep you updated!

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