CONNECTICUT, USA — A warning for the Connecticut consumer about a critical drug shortage in the treatment of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Albuterol is disappearing from pharmacy shelves. It’s a problem that could get worse before it gets better.
We are heading into Spring allergy season. It’s a trigger for many asthmatics. FOX61 discovered this Albuterol shortage is affecting mainly the liquid Albuterol used in a machine called a nebulizer, but to a lesser extent is also impacting the ability for people to obtain their personal tube inhalers.
Medication being in short supply is causing anxiety for Connecticut residents. Maria Lachance of Portland said.
“I take five major medications, and they are very important to me. I panic when I can’t get my medication,” said Lachance.
From Amoxicillin and cold and flu medications to now, the critical respiratory drug Albuterol. It’s used to treat everything from asthma and COPD to COVID. “Every day I have a person that just spends his day looking at all these shortages,” remarked Greg McKenna, the owner of Nutmeg Pharmacies.
Here's what's causing the shortage. Akorn Pharmaceuticals, one of only two makers of liquid Albuterol in the United States, is bankrupt. It’s impacting hospitals the most. “Here in the hospital we’ve been monitoring our use to ensure that we have absolutely enough supply,” explained Doctor Melanie Sue Collins of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Here's what is being done about it. The FDA is allowing certain facilities to make their own Albuterol through a process called ‘compounding.’ “We have contracted with one of those pharmacies to compound the Albuterol for us to ensure that we always have adequate supply,” explained Doctor Collins.
The FDA is also considering importing the drug from foreign manufacturers. “We definitely need to incentivize manufacturers to make drugs within the United States,” said McKenna.
McKenna told FOX61 the pharmaceutical industry is not only kneecapped by the lack of a domestic supply chain, but also by low reimbursement rates arbitrarily set by third-party pharmacy benefit managers. For example, a box of Albuterol costs McKenna $20, but he only gets reimbursed $4.76. “So I’m losing money to dispense it for the client,” said McKenna.
The FDA says it continues to monitor this Albuterol shortage but are limited in their authority since they can’t force private companies to increase production.
In total, the FDA lists nearly 300 medications that are either in short supply or recently resolved their supply issues.
Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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