The FDA says drug shortages could be a possibility in the coming months, due to the devastation from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. What does this mean? It means consumers could feel the impact of the recent natural disasters in a variety of ways – like availability and skyrocketing prices – as it relates to their prescription drugs.
There are nearly 50 pharmaceutical plants on the island of Puerto Rico and according to news reports, nearly all of them experienced some sort of power issue. To give you an idea of what this means, in 2016, pharmaceuticals represented 72% of Puerto Rico’s exports. That’s a significant number.
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Natural disasters can disrupt production of a number of goods, like oil, energy and, in this case, prescription drug manufacturing.
72% of Puerto Rico’s exports are related to pharmaceuticals
According to Jennifer Miller, a population health professor at New York University, when Hurricane Georges hit Puerto Rico in 1998, severe drug shortages were reported. For example, a medication used to treat angina, or chest pain, was in shortage due to a power outage at a Puerto Rican manufacturing facility.
The FDA hasn’t yet announced that drug shortages will impact U.S. consumers, but remember, a number of healthcare manufacturing facilities are located in Puerto Rico.
According to MarketWatch, the FDA has been working to “clean up debris to reach facilities, assessing fuel needs to keep generators running, and securing permissions to allow planes to land in Puerto Rico and fly critical products to the continental United States.”
Amgen Inc., which has a drug manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico, says its supply should not be affected by the hurricane, because they have enough inventory to meet patient demand. The company employs 2,000 Puerto Ricans.
In a statement, Amgen Inc. said, “The company’s preliminary assessment is that the critical manufacturing areas in our facility in Juncos, Puerto Rico, have not been significantly impacted by this storm. We expect to maintain our long-term track record of reliably supplying our patients with the medicines they need.”
AbbVie Inc. is another drug manufacturer that has facilities in Puerto Rico. They said their Puerto Rican manufacturing facilities are able to continue operation, thanks to an independent power generator.
We will continue to update you with information as it is available.