Planning For And Managing Medication Shortages

Hospitals, long-term care facilities and even average consumers are dealing with medication shortages that some experts are calling a health care “crisis.” What has been described as a classic “supply and demand” situation has left patients in need of specific medications stranded.

Stories have surfaced, as reported by the New York Times, of people driving from pharmacy to pharmacy to attempt to fill an Adderall prescription, of others rationing the prescriptions they have, of parents unable to get their hands on antibiotics or even children’s Tylenol, and of cancer patients who have had to delay treatment due to an inability to find the medication they need.

It is this environment that inspires conversations around how pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities can plan for contingencies, because for some patients, there is no time to wait for supply chain disruptions and shortages to normalize. And industry experts anticipate that supply shortages will likely get worse before they improve. 

Impact of shortages. Medication shortages, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter, can have a profound impact on care. Not only does the shortage create chaos and result in time lost for those in need of the medication, but it can upend the management of a patient’s condition. Those in need of Adderall, for example, have relayed sleep and focus disruptions that are having a measurable, negative impact on their overall lives. When it comes to long-term care facilities, medication shortages often lead to a delay in treatment, increased medication errors and ultimately the use of less effective treatment options, according to a federal brief about the issue. 

How to mitigate risk and ensure patient safety. Medication shortages are not new and they aren’t going anywhere, but they are on the rise. Managing medication stockpiles is, without a doubt, a delicate exercise. At UnitedRX, we like to remind our long-term care partners that we only charge for medication that has been used, unlike other pharmacies that charge for what is ordered. Ahead of a shortage, this might be a helpful element of a pharmacy partnership to consider. In addition, it’s best to develop and share a plan for a potential medication shortage with those in the organization who need to be aware of it and create clear communication practices with the pharmacies the organization relies upon. If indicators suggest a medication shortage may be on the horizon, ask questions about the impending delays or shortages to get the best snapshot of the situation that is available. 

The benefit of pharmacy partnerships. An overwhelming majority of healthcare facilities have reported the need to purchase a more expensive alternative in response to a medication shortage, according to an industry survey. UnitedRx uses over 30 sources for medications throughout the country to be able to satisfy and allay any shortages.  We also constantly monitor the U.S. drug chain for possible inventory disruptions.  Pharmacy partnerships, like those established between long-term care facilities and UnitedRX, help minimize that potential outcome. We’re always available, we offer a personalized, small-town pharmacy experience, and we create customized solutions to make sure our partners have what they need in the most cost-effective manner. At UnitedRx, we do more than fill prescriptions — we work to find solutions to challenges big and small, including medication preparedness. 

To learn more about how a partnership with UnitedRX may provide cost savings to your long-term care facility, reach out to one of our team members. 

At UnitedRX, we deliver a hometown pharmacy experience to more than 400 clients across the country. Contact us to learn more about how our approach to treatment can meet the pharmacy needs of your long-term care facility.