As many people are rushing to buy hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and other essentials in preparation for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, some pharmacists and technicians are reporting that they don’t have enough of these products behind the counter.

When asked to share their stories on the Pharmacy Times Facebook page, several pharmacists and pharmacy employees said they’re experiencing shortages of commonly used products that are necessary to ensure safety for pharmacy staff.

Camille Mason, CPhT, a pharmacy technician at a Kroger pharmacy, said they’re seeing a shortage of some products, including hand sanitizers, face masks, Tylenol, Zicam, EmergenC, alcohol, and peroxide. She added that Kroger has opened up hours for technicians, allowing them to work as many hours as they want.1

Others commented about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, saying that staff are struggling to keep up with demands for testing without any necessary equipment. Some said their stores had limited the number of vitamins each customer could purchase due to high demand.1

The inability to obtain products from wholesalers can be compared to a drug shortage, said Troy Trygstad, PharmD, MBA, PhD, vice president of pharmacy programs for Community Care of North Carolina.2

Several states, as well as the FDA, have taken steps to improve access to hand sanitizers. In addition to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that the state will manufacture its own hand sanitizer,2 the FDA has said it will take no action against compounders preparing alcohol-based hand sanitizers.3

In addition to hand sanitizers, PPE such as gloves and face masks are vital to ensuring the continued safety of medical professionals and patients in contact with them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), however, the current global stockpile of PPE is insufficient, especially for medical masks and respirators.4 According to an interim guidance document released on February 27, the WHO expects supplies of gowns and goggles to soon be depleted.4

In addition to the COVID-19 cases themselves, the WHO guidance attributed the rise in demand to misinformation, panic buying, and stockpiling, which pharmacists have reported as major concerns in their stores.4

The WHO has recommended ensuring proper use of PPE, minimizing the need for PPE, and coordinating the PPE supply chain as several ways to improve availability. Examples of these techniques can include telemedicine, the use of physical barriers such as glass or plastic windows, and restricting health care workers from unnecessarily entering the rooms of patients with COVID-19.4

“Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions, and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, PhD, in a statement. “We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first.”5


REFERENCES
  1. “What are you seeing on the frontlines?” [Facebook Post]. Pharmacy Times; posted March 17, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/PharmacyTimes/photos/a.322077629159/10157578505119160/?type=3&theater. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  2. Antrim, A. Hand Sanitizer in Short Supply at Pharmacies as Coronavirus Cases Grow. Pharmacy Times; March 11, 2020. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/hand-sanitizer-in-short-supply-at-pharmacies-as-coronavirus-cases-grow. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  3. Coppock, K. FDA to Take No Action Against Compounders Preparing Hand Sanitizer. Pharmacy Times; March 14, 2020. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/no-enforcement-action-to-be-taken-against-compounders-preparing-hand-sanitizer. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  4. Rational use of personal protective equipment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). World Health Organization; February 27, 2020. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331215/WHO-2019-nCov-IPCPPE_use-2020.1-eng.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  5. Shortage of personal protective equipment endangering health workers worldwide [news release]. World Health Organization; March 3, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/03-03-2020-shortage-of-personal-protective-equipment-endangering-health-workers-worldwide. Accessed March 17, 2020.