Many hit with prescription drug shortage during COVID-19 pandemic

There was a lot of attention on short supplies of toilet paper when the shutdown began. But some people are facing shortages of something much more important, medications.

More Zoloft prescriptions were written than ever before in March of this year when the shutdown began and people struggled with depression. Now the FDA says there's a shortage of Zoloft and some other mental health drugs.

"Yes and I think an ADHD medicine recently, another couple of other mental health-oriented drugs have been added and I think we can understand why.  It's been incredibly stressful," said Eric Levin, CEO of Scripta Insights.

Hydroxychloroquine once touted a possible COVID-19 treatment, has been harder to find for many people who take it for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.  And some asthma drugs are on the FDA shortage list, as well.

"Anything that helps with bronchial issues, inhalers, misters, things that you might take if you had asthma or COPD or a bad cough," said Levin.

While many pharmaceutical companies prevented shortages by being stocked up ahead of the shutdown, some shortages occurred because the ingredients come from India and China, which also shut down during the pandemic.

Scripta Insights, which already had a website that helps patients find lower drug prices, launched a Drug Substitutions Search Tool to help you find alternative drugs to those in short supply.

Levin tells us, "I think it's really stressful to feel like you're running out and you're calling your doctor. It's nice to have done a little research, maybe have somethings you can talk about."

And it's wise to keep extra medications on hand if you can.

"Ask your doctor for a 90 day fill instead of a 30-day fill. That way you know you have some extra at home and that can take some of that stress away," suggested Levin.

Other ways to prevent running out: refill your prescriptions two weeks before you run out and ask your doctor or pharmacist for alternatives. 

Scripta Insights offers this page with more insight into finding and getting medications safely during the pandemic.