Drug Shortages Amid the “Tripledemic”
December 14, 2022
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but your cheerfulness may be challenged by drug shortages across parts of the country, with the “tripledemic”—cases of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19—driving high demand for medications. These seasonal respiratory illnesses have emerged earlier than usual and have spread quickly and simultaneously across the country.
Record levels of illnesses have caused a spike in the demand for amoxicillin, resulting in an acute shortage of the antibiotic, which is widely used for the treatment of bacterial widespread upper and lower respiratory infections.
Physicians are facing shortages of critical drugs used during surgery. Shortages of key anesthesia medications used for most procedures and surgeries, and critical pain medications such as fentanyl are forcing doctors to use alternatives that may not be first-line or the optimal treatment for conditions or scenarios, or in the best interests of patients.
FDA and Pharma Companies’ Responses
According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), 123 of 184 listed drugs are currently in shortage. Officials say one of the reasons for the shortages is that drugs are manufactured based on orders from the previous year, meaning pharmaceutical companies don’t keep an inventory on hand year after year. Some manufacturers report that this year’s orders didn’t anticipate the heavy season for respiratory illnesses.
The FDA is working closely with numerous manufacturers and others in the supply chain to understand, mitigate, and prevent or reduce the impact of intermittent or reduced availability of certain products, including several over-the-counter (OTC) medicines used for symptomatic relief, such as the children’s medications liquid acetaminophen and ibuprofen. The FDA also has taken steps to help relieve the shortage by putting out guidance to pharmacists to make liquid amoxicillin for children from pill versions. (Amoxicillin pills for adults are not in short supply.)
Drug Manufacturing Problems
Drug manufacturers are having problems keeping up with their needs, including manufacturing and quality problems, delays, and discontinuations. Additional factors causing drug shortages are difficulties in acquiring raw materials, manufacturing problems, regulatory issues, business decisions, and disturbances within the supply chain.
Throughout the country, shortages of certain medications and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are leaving people on the hunt for a pharmacy or a grocery store to fill prescriptions and OTC products. Tamiflu, Adderall, and as already mentioned, even the standard antibiotic amoxicillin in liquid form, is getting hard to find.
If you can’t find a recommended medication readily available, you may need to call multiple pharmacies, look for a generic version, ask your doctor for an alternative prescription, or ask your pharmacist how to use an adult version of a medication for a child.
Brigid Groves, a pharmacist and the senior director for practice and professional affairs at the American Pharmacists Association, says, “The most important thing families can do for a sick loved one is to get them tested. Most doctor’s offices and some pharmacy clinics can do rapid tests to help determine whether your symptoms are coming from a viral or bacterial illness.”
If you face challenges finding medications during the tripledemic, persevere in your hunt to fill a prescription or to find a substitute recommended by your healthcare professional. Document your health insurance and flexible spending account activities, lists of prescribed and OTC medications, where you found them, and when you’ll need to find and fill them again at insureyouknow.org
What’s New for Flu?
September 30, 2021
During flu season last year, a record-low number of flu cases was linked to face mask wearing, remote work and school attendance, and physical distancing. But this year, experts fear that the reopening of schools, decreased adherence to pandemic precautions, and surging breakouts and Delta variant infections could result in a serious flu and COVID-19-season.
Take note of differences for 2021-2022 flu season
The Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) pinpoints a few things that are different for the 2021-2022 influenza (flu) season including:
- The composition of flu vaccines has been updated.
- All flu vaccines will be quadrivalent (four component), meaning designed to protect against four different flu viruses. For more information: Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine | CDC.
- Licensure on one flu vaccine has changed. Flucelvax Quadrivalent is now approved for people 2 years and older.
- Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time.
- Guidance concerning contraindications and precautions for the use of two flu vaccines – Flucevax Quadrivalent and Flublok Quadrivalent – were updated.
Take time now to get a flu vaccine
You can get your flu vaccine as you normally do, whether that’s through your health care provider or your local pharmacist. CDC has been working with health care providers and state and local health departments on how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory viruses, like the virus that causes COVID-19, and has released Interim Guidance for Immunization Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
- Flu vaccines help to reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths on the health care system each year.
- This season, all flu vaccines will be designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common.
- Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine, ideally by the end of October.
- Vaccination of people at higher risk of developing serious flu complications is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
- People at higher risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.
- Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for people at higher risk to keep from spreading flu to them. This is especially true for people who work in long-term care facilities, which are home to many of the people most vulnerable to flu.
- Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu illness but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated instead.
Take preventive actions to reduce the spread of flu
close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
coughs and sneezes.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses that cause flu.
- For flu, CDC recommends that people stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Fever should be gone without the need to use a fever-reducing medicine. Note that the stay-at-home guidance for COVID-19 may be different. Learn about some of the similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19.
- In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments, or public health departments may recommend additional precautions that you should follow in your community.
Take antiviral drugs if prescribed
- If you are sick with flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness.
- Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines and are not available over-the-counter.
- Antiviral drugs can make flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
- Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a higher risk factor or is very sick from flu.
- If you are at higher risk from flu and get flu symptoms, call your health care provider early so you can be treated with flu antivirals if needed. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Visit CDC’s website to find out what to do if you get sick with flu. Learn about some of the similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19, and the difference between flu and the common cold.
After you have gotten your vaccine for the 2021-2022 flu season, keep a record of the date of and description of your injection at insureyouknow.org. On this secure website, you also can keep copies of your insurance cards and driver’s license that could be helpful when you fill out medical forms at your doctor’s office or neighborhood pharmacy.