Some Austin patients stock up on prescriptions, concerned Coronavirus could cause drug shortage

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to keep an eye on potential shortages in the medical industry as a result of the Coronavirus.

This week, the agency announced it’s first drug shortage due to the outbreak. They have not named the drug but say there are alternatives for patients.

Some Austinites are trying to get ahead of the potential problem by getting prescription refills ahead of time.

“I’m trying to be overly cautious because I am over 60 and I do have high blood pressure,” says Nancy, who came to Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin to get an extra supply of her medicine.

“What I read is it might be a good idea to get an extra month’s supply of any medications you have,” she says.

That’s in case shipments from overseas grind to a stop.

Nancy is not wrong.

An infectious disease specialist at Dell Medical School at UT recommends to stay 60 to 90 days ahead of your refills.

This week, those calls started coming into Tarrytown.

Patients line up at Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin. (KXAN/Tahera Rahman)

“[Patients are] getting worried about potential drug shortages in the future,” says pharmacist Ellie Studder.

Studder says drugs are most commonly shipped from China, India and Israel.

According to the CDC, all have confirmed cases of the virus.

Studder says they are not seeing any shortages at home, yet.

“We’re taking precautions here at our pharmacy to try to be on top of having enough inventory in stock should that happen,” she says.

Studder says although there’s still no reason to panic, she agrees it’s a good idea to stay one step ahead of your refills– just keep in mind there could be an extra cost.

“The problem runs in to the insurance and whether they’re willing to cover it or not. So a lot of times patients are having to pay out of pocket, higher costs for those medications,” she says.

Studder says those costs can be double or triple what you’d normally pay out of pocket– even into the hundreds of dollars, depending on the prescription.

It’s a price that Nancy is willing to pay.

“I don’t want to take a chance, I need my blood pressure medicine every day,” she says.

The FDA says it has been in touch with more than 180 manufacturers of human drugs since January to keep track of any disruptions in supply.

Tarrytown’s pharmacist says they are beginning the process of researching where the most common and critical drugs are shipped from in order to identify and monitor the most at-risk prescriptions.

Medical supplies

Earlier this week, we reported stores are posting signs saying they’re out of some supplies.

Studder says they got cleaned out of masks and sanitizer this week.

Peoples Rx on South Lamar say they’ve been out of masks for weeks now.

CVS, Walgreens, and local hardware stores tell us they cannot stay stocked.

HEB is now putting a limit on how many sanitizing products customers can buy.

A banner on HEB’s homepage notifies customers of a new purchasing limit on hand sanitizers.

At the top of their website, a banner reads, “to be fair to all customers, we are placing a limit of four on many hand sanitizers, wipes and similar items.”

The FDA says it has not had any reports of nationwide shortages of medical supplies, but notes that companies are not required by law to make those reports.

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