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Medicine shortage impacting pharmacists in Memphis area, nationally

Pharmacists in the Memphis area spoke about what they're doing to survive drug shortages and an increase in patients.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — All across the country, pharmacies are busy, and a shortage of certain medications does not help. 

Memphis-area pharmacists spoke about what they are doing to survive drug shortages and an increase in patients.

When it comes to our pharmacies, demand is up and supply is down. “We’re still treating people for COVID. We’ve had an uptick in flu, an uptick in RSV, an uptick in strep,” said Dr. Tracy McGee, Christ Community Health Medication Therapy Management Pharmacist.

Dr. McGee said a large portion of those patients are children. 

“We have a seen an increase in the number of pediatric patients that come in with upper respiratory infections due to their extended exposure from being in school and things being so contagious,” said Dr. McGee.

To add to the problem, there is a shortage of certain medications such as Amoxicillin and Tamiflu for viral infections and Ozempic for diabetes. 

“We keep our providers informed to let them know where our shortages are, so that they can prescribe alternatives and get other things instead of those medications,” said Dr. McGee.

Over in Olive Branch, Mississippi, Get Well Pharmacy is seeing the same.

“That’s what I’ve been able to do is to order across the border to really about three to four different primary whole sellers and then four secondary whole sellers in order to help keep my supply in,” said Rick Chambers, Get Well Pharmacy of Olive Branch Pharmacist in Charge. “One difference in an independently owned pharmacy is the ability to order from multiple whole sellers. A lot of the larger chain pharmacies are locked into one primary whole seller. Unfortunately, when those whole sellers are out of stock, you’re out of stock.”

CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens have both put restrictions on pain-relief medications for kids. In a statement, Zoe Kerry with Walgreens said, “Retailers nationwide are experiencing supplier fulfillment challenges due to increased demand of over-the-counter pediatric fever-reducing products. While Walgreens continues to have products to support our customers and patients, we have put into effect an online-only purchase limit of 6 per online transaction to prevent excess purchasing behavior.”

Carissa Falzarano with CVS Health said, “To ensure equitable access for all our customers, there is currently a two (2) product limit on all children’s pain relief products at all CVS Pharmacy locations and cvs.com. We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items.”

Dr. McGee said one of the steps Christ Community Health has taken is to plan ahead. “When we see that something is going to go into a shortage or there are limited supplies of certain things, if it’s something that our providers use a lot of, we try to acquire as much as we can, so that when the shortages do come, we still have medications available to treat our patients,” said McGee.

Pharmacists said they are also keeping an eye on prices and trying to avoid high prescription costs due to the supply shortage.

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