This problem is widespread and likely to affect you or someone you love.

Drug shortages of all sorts of drugs – anesthetics, painkillers, antibiotics, cancer treatments – have become the new norm. Shortages of drugs and therapeutics occur for a variety of reasons, including for reasons ranging from manufacturing problems to federal safety crackdowns to drug manufacturers abandoning low-profit products. Some shortages receive attention, but many times the patients and the public are not aware of the issues.

A survey of oncologists conducted in 2012 and 2013 showed 83% of doctors who regularly prescribed cancer drugs reported having been unable to provide the preferred chemotherapy agent at least once during the previous six months. More than a third of them said they had to delay treatment “and make difficult choices about which patients to exclude,” according to a letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

In the past several years, with no requirement for giving notice, drug companies have opted to stop production of life-saving medications such as sodium bicarbonate injections that are part of standard resuscitation protocols. These shortages occur as drug manufacturers turn their focus toward money instead of patient care, and shift their production lines to higher priced, more profitable drugs. These publicly held companies point to the responsibility to provide returns to their investors.

When shortages occur, doctors sometimes need to make the difficult choice to switch to a different medication, perhaps one that is less effective or has more side effects. Sadly, during this time, symptoms can reoccur, or diseases can progress.

Compounding pharmacies often are called upon regularly by hospitals, veterinarians, and health care providers in private practice to help during medication shortages. As long as the unavailable drug has been removed from the market for a reason such as declining usage or low profitability but not due to safety concerns, compounders can obtain the active ingredient from an FDA-inspected chemical provider and use it to prepare the needed medication.

If a medication that you need is commercially unavailable, the compounding pharmacist at Peachtree Pharmacy can help. We are happy to answer your questions and work together with you and your medical practitioners to solve medication problems.

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