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.