Pfizer, which makes several versions of the sedative midazolam, also noted that its distribution network continues to operate without significant interruptions. “For many of these critical drugs, we have an ample supply. For some, the unprecedented increase in demand for these products is limiting our ability to fully satisfy customer orders in the short term, ”said Kimberly Bencker, a spokesman for the company.
Pharmaceutical benefit managers, such as CVS Caremark, are also trying to balance the growing interest in prescription drugs for the response to coronavirus with the needs of patients taking them for chronic conditions like asthma, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
"Our goal is to limit the storage of medications that could result in future shortages and service gaps," said Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman. Retail pharmacies are following state distribution guidelines and limiting the distribution of coronavirus treatments to a 10-day supply in states without defined recommendations, said DeAngelis. People who already take these drugs for approved uses may ignore any new quantity limits agreed by the plan sponsor.
Experts still advise patients to avoid accumulating drugs, as regional shortages could soon become national shortages as coronavirus infections continue to spread.
Although the pandemic has sparked innovations in mechanical breathing machines, and some medical supplies can be obtained from the national stock, the drugs are not so easy to replace. "If you go over a peak in a certain area, you can move resources like fans to another place, but the drugs are consumable," said Schondelmeyer. "They were gone when they were used."
Transparency in the available supply chain data can help prevent drug shortages in the future. Pharmaceutical companies, wholesalers and suppliers generally know where raw materials for medicines are purchased and which countries manufacture which parts of a medicine, as well as which factories can take over if production needs to be expanded. But each company keeps this data confidential, and even the F.D.A. it does not have a systematic way of analyzing drug production and supply chain capabilities.
"We need to make this at least a little bit more transparent and start looking for ways to plan and identify where we have vulnerabilities and where we should change policies," said Schondelmeyer. "We are currently trying to build that bridge as we cross the bridge."