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Major Prescription Drug Shortages Frustrate Patients, Pharmacies

By Stephanie Lucero, CBS 11 News
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(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CBS DFW (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSDFW.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSDFW.com/Health

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A growing number of prescription medications are in short supply and area patients are becoming frustrated shopping around, trying to find what they need.

On May 2, the Washington Post reported that this year is on track to see 356 new drug shortages by the end of 2011. That’s up nearly 16 percent since 2004, when there were just 58 new shortages identified.

Dougherty’s Pharmacy in North Dallas is the largest retail pharmacy in the state. It has a list of more than 50 medications that currently cannot be filled. Most are listed as unavailable from the manufacturer.

“Even our wholesaler can’t get it,” said Dougherty’s General Manager Jim Potter. “Like the shingles vaccine, there’s just been a shortage.”

The shortages are trickling down to many Dallas and Fort Worth Area patients, who report being unable to get their prescriptions filled as easily as years past. In addition to the shingles vaccine, pharmacists noted a shortage of drugs to treat inflammation and ADHD, as well.

Dallas resident Julie Smith is transferring her and her husband’s prescriptions to a new pharmacy because her grocery store pharmacy has been unable to fulfill all of their needs.

“I said, ‘I will be getting this filled every month. I’ve been on this regiment for about a year,’” Smith said. “Still, the next month they don’t have it ordered. They don’t have enough of it in stock.”

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists keeps track of drug shortages and maintains a bulletin on its website. The Federal Drug Administration also keeps a running log of shortages and allows residents to report drug shortages in their areas.

However, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices conducted a survey in 2010 with 1,800 medical professionals and found that many were frustrated with a lacking response from the FDA, which provided “little to no information available about the duration of a drug shortage.”

Dougherty’s Pharmacist Wayne McMeans said he routinely works with patients to find alternatives. When a prescribed drug is unavailable, the pharmacist will contact the physician to determine if a different, available medication can be prescribed, he said.

However, many questions from pharmacies to drug companies as to a reason for the shortage often fall on deaf ears, officials said.

“We don’t get a lot of answers,” McMeans said. “Drug shortages for items that we have taken for granted for years are now coming up.”

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