Shortages of Drugs and Counterfeits May Offer New Opportunity for Pharmacists


Recent reports of drug shortages and distribution of counterfeit drugs offer pharmacists an opening to make use of their skills.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg spoke to CNN about medical counterfeits, as well as another crucial problem—the ongoing shortage of many lifesaving cancer drugs.

The FDA has really been in the news recently because shortages of critical drugs have been so much in the news. Recently, the presence of the counterfeit cancer drug Avastin was revealed in the press—putting another spotlight on the FDA and the US’s drug supply issues.

Pharmacists are critically impacted by these problems. Finding alternative drugs to use when a critical drug is not available takes a lot of time. Sometimes, alternatives do not offer the same benefit. The emotional impact of telling a patient that drug therapy is not available can be hard, especially when the drug is critical for that patient’s survival.

Is there a role and opportunity for compounding pharmacy now? At one point, pharmacists made drugs into useful dosage forms. Is this skill needed again? Is this another example of what goes around comes around again? I think it is.

The arena of counterfeit drugs may be another matter. When pharmacists or other drug buyers buy from the “gray market” to save a few dollars isn’t greed more the issue? Not the only problem here, I would agree, but it is certainly part of the problem.

Once more, the pharmacists’ skills of evaluating the quality of drug products—a big part of my training 50 years ago—may be coming back again, too. In our rush to make pharmacists the clinical drug use experts, we better not forget that our profession needs to be the drug quality expert, too. It looks like the drug use system in the US needs this expertise today.

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