Puerto Rico Isn’t the Only Area Hit with A Drug Shortage
Hurricane Maria was no kind stranger to Puerto Rico in September. We have watched in horror as people have struggled to rebuild. At the time of this writing, 70% of the country was still without electricity. One of the biggest concerns is getting medications into the country for those in need. Who would’ve thought we also need to worry about drug production?
Home of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
Puerto Rico houses 50 pharmaceutical manufacturing plants for some of the biggest names in the field. Baxter, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson are just some of the few that are facing possible drug shortages that will affect the US. These facilities produce treatments for HIV, cancer, high cholesterol, and immunosuppressants for organ transplant patients. There are approximately 30 medical-device plants on the island as well.
Running at a Reduction
Many of these plants are automatically prepared to withstand hurricanes and have backup generators to keep things moving along during the stormy months. No one was quite prepared for this level of devastation. Many of the plants sustained minimal damage and have been able to maintain refrigeration. What the plants are now faced with is running the last six weeks on diesel-fueled generators and a lack of employees who are unable to get to work. The expense is running high, and production has dropped.
The Effect of a Ravaged Country
Because we often forget the importance Puerto Rico has in our medical community, it’s hard to imagine what this means for the rest of us. For Puerto Rico, they are struggling in massive ways. The plants employ approximately 90,000 residents, a majority of which are unable to get to work. This also translates into a fear of major drug shortage for medicines that are highly needed. Many patients on the mainland may not be able to get the treatments they need and could find higher costs associated with the medicines they are currently receiving.
The FDA is currently working to do what they can to alleviate the situation the best it can. Officials are now traveling to Puerto Rico to assess the situation first-hand as communications are still not functioning at full capacity. Some plants have shifted work to the mainland to try and reduce the impact. What has been completed is now being airlifted to the mainland to be shipped out accordingly. There are also efforts to bring fuel and other supplies to the plants so that they can keep functioning at the best level they possibly can.
We certainly don’t want to create a panic where it may not be warranted. Staying on top of news alerts and watching prices can at least keep you abreast of the situation. It will also make answering the harder questions later. Ironically, some people may already have heard of the situation and have reached their own level of concern or panic. Pharmacists can at least alleviate some of their patients’ fears right now until news has updated with more information on how drug companies and officials are handling the chaos.