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'I've never seen it like this' | Prescription drug shortage leaves patients scrambling to find critical medicines

Some of the reasons for the shortage include issues with the supply chain and manufacturing shutdowns.

JONESBORO, Ga. — Many patients are unable to get lifesaving medications because of a nationwide shortage. And now, it's even affecting cancer patients, particularly those who are trying to get generic drugs. Often, there's no replacement for certain chemotherapy drugs.

Some of the reasons for the shortage include issues with the supply chain and manufacturing shutdowns.

Prescription orders came in at a steady pace Tuesday at Arrowhead Health Mart Pharmacy in Jonesboro. Co-owner Ola Reffell has worked as a pharmacist for 40 years but is finding it hard to fill her patients' prescriptions.

“I've never seen it like this," Reffell said. “In the past, when you had back orders, they'll give you a date like a month, two weeks or something, but right now, it is to be determined. When there's no alternative, it's really kind of hard on the patients.” 

She's had customers drive an hour or two to her pharmacy when other places can't fill their orders. 

“We try to see if there's an alternative that we can recommend to the doctor or try to call around for them and see if another pharmacy still has it," Reffell said. 

The national prescription drug shortage may be out of our control, but pharmacists say you can do several things to protect your health.

“Don't wait until you are down to the last pill before you start looking," Reffell said. "Try and stay within the limits of what you are prescribed.” 

Reffell urges people to use similar drugs and look for other therapies if medication isn't available. 

“Some of them have resorted to getting it from on the Internet or outside the country, and that's scary because you don't know... what's in those," Reffell said. 

The White House has formed a team to look at ways to fix supply chain and quality control issues. In the meantime, Reffell hopes she can soon tell some of her customers when they'll be able to get the medication they need. 

The University of Utah Drug Information Service reports 301 active national drug shortages through this year's first quarter. That's the highest since 2014.

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