Drug shortages: Impact on patients

Critical drugs are coming up short across the country, and doctors are being forced to put patients on treatments that are less effective than potentially life-saving drugs.

The impact of drug shortages is felt most by those in need of the medicines.

Caroline Nelson Pond knows she might not get the medicine she needs when she walks into the pharmacy. She takes 30 milligrams of Oxycodone every to manage the pain caused by her Spinal Stenosis.

“If I don’t have the medication my body will go into withdrawal,” Pond says.

Oxycodone and other controlled substances like the A.D.H.D medicine Adderall are becoming increasingly harder to find. Doctor Peter Preganz, a pain management specialist, says these drugs in particular are more difficult to get a hold of because they are recognized as abused drugs.

Across the country, there is a broader-reaching problem of short supplies of more than 260 different kinds of drugs.

Bona E. Benjamin, Director of Medication-Use Quality Improvement, says “it is very stressful to deal with a diagnosis of cancer, but imagine adding on top of that the fact that the drug you need to treat your disease is not available.”

Carey Fitzmaurice has experienced the shortage of her treatment medication first hand. Fitzmaurice has Stage-3 Ovarian Cancer. “I was put on Doxil. My blood numbers were as low as they have ever been,” she says. But after four injections of Doxil, her hospital ran out of the drug.

Nine months after Fitzmaurice found out her hospital was out of Doxil, she was finally able to get back on a generic form of the medicine. But like other cancer patients, Carey Fitzmaurice was not alone in finding out the medicine she needed was unavailable. Last year alone more than 500,000 cancer patients were told that they could not get the drugs they needed.

According to Fitzmaurice, "I will continue to speak out about the issue."

Meanwhile, Carole Nelson Pond wonders how she would handle not having her pain killing medication. She says she has been nervous.

Experts say that with planning patients might be able to avoid problems due to shortages of their medications. Patients can talk with their doctor about the state of their prescriptions to find out what other treatment options are available should their medicines run out.


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