72% of Pharmacy Technicians Surveyed Report Workflow Affected by Drug Shortages

Pharmacy TimesJanuary 2024
Volume 90
Issue 1

Medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists for weight loss and diabetes were among the drugs most affected by shortages

In approximately 96% of certified pharmacy technicians who responded to a survey said that their pharmacy had drug shortages, according to an analysis conducted by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).1

lack of medicines. ended with pills, drugs, masks. shortage of drugs in the hospital. Medical concept - Image credit: Natali | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Natali | stock.adobe.com

Respondents to the survey said chemotherapy drugs, medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists for weight loss and diabetes, and local anesthetics were among the drugs that had the biggest shortages. These drugs included tirzepatide (Mounjaro; Eli Lilly and Company), semaglutide (Ozempic; Novo Nordisk), and lidocaine.1

Of the respondents, 72% indicated that the drug shortages significantly or very significantly impacted their workflow, with 1 individual indicating that it affected patient care and staffing as well. That respondent stated, “We prioritize addressing and reacting to the shortage to ensure we don’t have gaps in patient care.”1 Approximately 35% of pharmacy technicians said they address drug shortage issues instead of regular pharmacy duties more than 5 times a day.1

Approximately 90% of individuals in the survey recommended alternative drugs when available to address the drug shortage, but in 45% of cases they were unable to fill that prescription. When an alternative was not available, approximately 28.79% of pharmacy technicians were able to utilize the compounding services of their pharmacy and 6.06% were able to refer the patient to another compounding pharmacy. One respondent indicated that their pharmacy runs a weekly shortage call to address shortages.1

“It’s no surprise that pharmacy technicians are actively working on solutions to mitigate drug shortages for their patients. I’m impressed by the spirit of collaboration, even outside of the pharmacy where they work,” William Schimmel, CEO of PTCB, said in a statement. “Some respondents told us they called drug [representatives] to find medication for their patients. That just shows what a vital part pharmacy technicians play in health care delivery.”1

PTCB conducted the survey online in August 2023 and included certified pharmacy technicians with a Supply Chain and Inventory Management Certificate. Approximately 14% were from community pharmacies, 62% were from health-system pharmacies, and 24% were from other pharmacy practice settings.1 The most common drugs mentioned by pharmacy technicians in the survey included amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall; Teva Pharmaceuticals); bupivacaine (Exparel; Pacira Biosciences, Inc); the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and cisplatin; and lidocaine.1

As the chemotherapy drug shortage continues, patients, other treatment providers, and the oncology space have been greatly affected.2 Carboplatin and cisplatin are among the drugs affected by the shortage, which are used to treat a wide variety of cancers. This has caused treatment providers to stretch out the time between treatments; scrape out the last drop of each vial to create new doses; and, in some cases, prioritize which patients get treatment first. Many treatment regimens have been disrupted by the need to switch to less optimal combinations, to switch the type of medication (oral vs intravenous), or to change the order of drug therapy altogether.2

Additionally, in October 2022, the FDA put out a statement on the shortage of Adderall, which is used to treat ADHD. Due to the shortage, the demand for other methylphenidate formulations increased, causing subsequent shortages for Ritalin (Novartis) and Concerta (Janssen).3

Although drug shortages are especially prominent right now, pharmacy professionals need to consider all options to continue treatment for affected patients.1 Pharmacy technicians can play a key role in identifying and managing these shortages so that patients can receive and maintain necessary treatments.


  1. Drug shortages impacting nearly all pharmacies, PTCB survey finds. News release. Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. September 21, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023. https://www.ptcb.org/news/drug-shortages-impacting-nearly-all-pharmacies-ptcb-survey-finds
  2. Halpern L. As chemotherapy drug shortage continues, unimaginable decisions and lacking accountability reign. Pharmacy Times. July 24, 2023. Accessed September 21, 2023. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/as-chemotherapy-drug-shortage-continues-unimaginable-decisions-and-lacking-accountability-reign
  3. Van de Roovaart H. Anticipating drug shortages during supply chain disruptions: implications for children with ADHA. Pharmacy Times. July 25, 2023. Accessed September 21, 2023. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/anticipating-drug-shortages-during-supply-chain-disruptions-implications-for-children-with-adhd
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