Don’t get caught in the drug shortage crisis 

You’ve seen it on TV, heard about it from friends and maybe been clobbered by it yourself: the drug shortage. The crisis has left cancer patients waiting for life-saving chemotherapy ... parents scrambling for their kids’ ADHD drugs ... doctors, nurses and hospitals in a tizzy ... and frantic pharmacists saying, “Sorry, but we’re all out.”

Nobody’s got an inside track on dwindling supplies, as we You Docs have learned the hard way when friends and family have asked us to help them find medications. It isn’t easy. But these steps could help you survive a crisis:

1. Figure out a Plan B. Especially if you’re scheduled for chemotherapy, but anytime you’re starting a new prescription, ask your doc two questions:

- “Is there a chance this drug isn’t available or could disappear before I stop needing it?” Sudden shortages are taking doctors, hospitals and pharmacies by surprise, so the answer may be, “I don’t know.” Still, ask.

-“What do I do if the supply seems fine but suddenly dries up anyway?” Discussing your options now could prevent a cold panic later. Possibilities include: choosing a backup drug; using another drug from the get-go; or, if possible, delaying treatment until the first choice is in sure supply.

2. Stay informed. Constantly updated lists of drug shortages are available online. Check both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov/drugs) and the American Society of Health-
System Pharmacists (www.ashp.org/shortages).

3. Don’t wait till the last second for a refill. Enough said.

4. Don’t fall for a desperate solution. Shady Internet pharmacies that don’t require prescriptions and overseas drugstores with questionable standards are good routes to tainted or counterfeit drugs.

5. Taking Doxil for cancer? Register here. Janssen Products, maker of this drug, started its DOXIL C.A.R.E.S. program to get Doxil to those who need it most.

6. Kick Congress in the pants. Prod it to pass long-stalled proposals requiring drug makers to warn the FDA six months before a potential shortage — or face million-dollar fines.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

 

Some hard-to-find popular drugs

Major cancer drugs

- cisplatin (Platinol)

- doxorubicin (Doxil)

- aclitaxel (Taxol)

- incristine (Oncovin)

Long-established medications

- tetracycline — widely used antibiotic

- acyclovir — for herpes and shingles

- leflunomide — for rheumatoid arthritis

- Surgical anesthetics

- Feeding-tube formulas

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