Drug Shortages Caused by Hurricane Maria

The recent devastation from back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria has wiped out most of Puerto Rico’s power grid. With almost 10 percent of the medications that are prescribed in the United States being manufactured in Puerto Rico, there is a strong likelihood that shortages will occur with certain medications, according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. This is a significant issue, especially with some products already being in shortage before the hurricanes struck.

Running at Reduced Capacity

While power is still in the process of being restored to the island, drug manufacturers are hobbled with running only one out of five lines and at reduced capacity. Currently it is unknown when they will be able to return to full capacity.

Many of the major drug manufacturers, such as Baxter, Eli Lilly and Co., Merck & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb, Amgen and Johnson and Johnson have facilities in Puerto Rico, among others. Approximately 40 drugs that are made in these facilities are at risk of shortage. This includes drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and HIV.

How the FDA is Responding

The FDA is working with drug manufacturers to reduce the risk of these shortages. The agency is assisting with securing fuel and manufacturing supplies, in addition to assisting with logistical support with moving critical products both on and off the island. Reviews and approvals of generic versions of medications and other dosage forms are being performed by the FDA to provide alternative sources of these much-needed medications.

Medical Device and Supply Shortages

Medical supplies needed at hospitals, care facilities and pharmacies are already facing shortages due to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. IV bags should be conserved whenever possible in order to ensure supplies remain for patients who need them.


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Patient Education: Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is used in more than 600 prescription and OTC medications. As a popular and effective medication, more than 50 million Americans use acetaminophen each week. When it is used as directed, it is effective and safe, but when misused, it can lead to liver damage. But not everyone is aware of the dangers of acetaminophen overuse, and most people who overdose aren’t aware that they’re taking too much.

Prevent Overdoses of Acetaminophen

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that no one should take more than 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period. It also recommends against regular, long-term use. Patients might not always be aware that acetaminophen is in the various medications that they take. For example, if a patient is taking a prescription pain medication like Percocet or Vicodin and is also taking an OTC medicine like NyQuil, they are at risk of an overdose.

When dispensing medications that contain acetaminophen, it is important to make patients aware of the risk of acetaminophen overdose by:

  • Reminding patients verbally when they pick up their medications of the risk of acetaminophen overdose.
  • Making sure warnings appear in the written materials given when prescriptions are picked up.
  • Labeling prescription bottles to alert patients to not take other prescriptions or OTC medications that contain acetaminophen while taking their prescription.
  • Placing leaflets or hanging posters in waiting areas to warn of the dangers of overdosing on acetaminophen.

For more information on the dangers of acetaminophen overdose and how to alert patients, visit The effects of overdosing are not immediately alarming, but they do produce serious long-term health consequences.

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October is American Pharmacists Month

October is American Pharmacists Month. This is a great time to celebrate the pharmacist profession and connect with patients and the community. Here are some suggestions based on the American Pharmacists Association’s event page.

  • Decorate the pharmacy with posters, banners and balloons to announce it’s American Pharmacists Month.
  • Show appreciation to patients during American Pharmacists month by offering treats and handing out promotional items, such as refrigerator magnets, pens or tote bags, with the pharmacy name and phone number on them.
  • Educate community members on medication management and safe storage.
  • Have a “Medication Check-Up Day” and invite patients to participate by bringing in a list of medications they take, both prescription and OTC, so that pharmacists can check and alert patients to any potential drug interactions.
  • Schedule health events for pharmacy patients and others in the community, such as flu shot clinics or screenings for diabetes, cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Reach out to seniors in the community by holding special events where they can learn more about Medicare and the benefits they are eligible for.
  • Reach out to students and teachers who want to learn more about a day in the life of a pharmacist.

October brings opportunities not only to appreciate pharmacists and all the work they do in the community, but to reach out and boost publicity. If you participate in American Pharmacists Month or want to see how other pharmacies have celebrated, use the hashtag #APhM2017 on social media.

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