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New report suggests 'panic buying' of medications by patients and providers caused drug shortages | Joggingvideo.com
10.4 C
New York
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

New report suggests 'panic buying' of medications by patients and providers caused drug shortages

As the “triple threat” of COVID-19, influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) caused a spike in patients seeking medication in the winter of 2022, drug shortages were the highest they had been in five years, according to a March 2023 Senate report.

In terms of what caused the shortages, a new report from the Milken Center for Public Health in Washington, D.C., suggested those shortages stemmed from individuals and providers “panic-buying” more medications than they needed amid fear and confusion.

“During COVID, we were faced with a unique situation — a pandemic that we hadn’t been faced with as a society for hundreds of years — and it did expose some fragilities,” said report co-author Sarah Wells Kocsis, director of the Milken Center for Public Health, during an interview with Fox News Digital.

‘Three-part epidemic’ triggered shortages

The convergence of COVID, flu and RSV led to a spike in demand for medications, Milken experts said.

This stockpiling resulted in localized “spot” shortages of Tamiflu (the most popular flu medication in the U.S.) and albuterol (an asthma treatment that opens up the airways to facilitate breathing). 

“Social media and news media fueled a frenzy around rising cases and deaths.”

Stockpiling led to ‘artificial’ shortage

While it may have appeared that the supply chain wasn’t making enough medications to handle the influx of illness, the Milken report stated that the issue was caused by consumers buying more than they actually needed, causing an “artificial” shortage.

“I think it’s very easy to immediately assume that the supply chain was broken or that people weren’t doing their part,” said Kocsis.

Empty medicine bottle

To prevent stockpiling that can cause shortages, the Milken report calls for greater transparency across the supply chain — particularly during times of crisis. (iStock)

Kocsis believes the shortage was prompted by an increase in demand that caught some of the manufacturers off guard, which resulted in consumers and health care providers “stockpiling temporarily.”

“These statements are not supported by any data or references,” she told Fox News Digital.

Communication key to preventing shortages 

To prevent stockpiles that can cause shortages, the Milken report calls for greater transparency across the supply chain, particularly in times of crisis.

“When people get panicked or they’re unsure of information, that results in certain behaviors,” Kocsis told Fox News Digital. 

“We need to work on more comprehensive communication — not only to those who are responsible for getting the medications to the dispensing point, but also deeper into the communities we serve,” she added.

Drug shortages upend hospital care, delay surgeries and postpone cancer treatments Video

When distributors and manufacturers openly communicate the true state of supply and demand, the report said this would “better inform decisions to release public health stockpiles, help facilitate redistribution or provide alternative guidance when the recommended medications were unavailable.”

It’s also important for health care providers and pharmacists to serve as “trusted messengers” in their communities, the report added.

Woman sick at pharmacy

It’s important for health care providers and pharmacists to serve as “trusted messengers” in their communities, the new report said. (iStock)

For parents with young children, Kocsis stressed the importance of having a trusted relationship with their pediatricians to ensure that the appropriate medications are prescribed.

Johnson, however, questioned the statement about parents choosing hospital visits over primary doctors and noted that the statement is not supported by a reference or data. 

Emergency room sign

Many parents took their sick children to hospitals instead of to their pediatricians, which could have played a part in the drug shortage, per Milken’s report. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

“In my personal experience across two pediatrician offices in Washington and Arizona, pediatricians are particularly good at keeping kids out of the ER unless their vital signs are unstable,” she told Fox News Digital. 

“We need to think practically about where we channel our care and make sure people know where to show up when they need that care,” she added.

Diabetes drug shortage is a 'scary situation': Dr Ali Khan Video

The report stressed the need for health literacy education to “quell panic-buying, prevent artificial shortages and incentivize people to follow best practices when sicknesses are spreading.”

Situation is improving, expert says

Milken’s Kocsis does see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Johnson agreed that some opportunities have arisen from what she calls “COVID chaos.”

“The pandemic highlighted weak links in public health and medical supply chain logistics,” she told Fox News Digital. 

“For many, that source is not the government,” she said. “Health care providers without special interests or upcoming elections are better messengers.”

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After completing this report, Kocsis said she feels more optimistic about the future of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

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