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Drug Shortages Continue to Rise

Every month I seem to hit on an article that deals with difficult drug shortages and a new group of people who are being negatively affected by it. Those in a pharmacy technician school will have interesting challenges ahead as they try to compensate for and aid those patients who need to find alternative medications.

On MLive.com Shandra Martinez writes that Adderal, a popular medication that helps children and adults who battle with attention deficit disorder, is no longer available. “Adderall is one of more than 200 prescription drug shortages this year, according to Food and Drug Association.That already surpasses 2010, when the drug shortage list peaked at 178,” explains Martinez. “In 2005, there were only 61 drugs in short supply.”

74% of the drugs that are in limited supply are for cancer treatment. “Pharmacists, physicians and staffers now sometimes have to meet several times a day to discuss alternative medication plans for patients. Switching medications used for treatments requires changing everything from staff protocols to ordering procedures,” states Martinez.

What scares me is that the medications that are in short supply are not for rare conditions but for common disorders and sicknesses. Additude.mag reports that “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, shows that AD/HD affects up to 7.5 percent of school-aged children. The National Institute of Health, using information from previous studies, had estimated the number of children with AD/HD to be between 3% – 5% of the population.” According to Cancer.org, in January 2008 approximately 11,958,000 people had cancer.

Martinez says that “The drug shortage is an example of what happens when the law of supply-and-demand collides with the urgent needs of health care… Last month, President Barack Obama ordered the FDA to take some steps to reduce drug shortages. Those include pushing drug companies to quickly report shortages so they can be addressed, speeding up reviews of new manufacturing facilities and working with the Justice Department to step up investigation of price gouging in the pharmaceuticals market… While the industry supports the increased federal oversight, some blame the problem on a federal law that gives the FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency the power to limit the amount of ‘controlled substance’ ingredients available for manufacturing.”

Hopefully there will be a viable solution to end this drug shortage problem. Until then, students in a pharmacy technician program will have to help pharmacists and doctors with their creative treatments.

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