Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in September, could make it difficult for you to obtain prescription drugs. Approximately 10% of the prescription drugs taken in the US are manufactured in Puerto Rico, and many of the island’s pharmaceutical facilities still are struggling to return to full production due to lingering electrical grid and supply chain problems. That’s likely to lead to drug shortages in the months ahead.
It is not known which drugs are at risk. The US Food and Drug Administration announced in October that it was “very concerned about” 40 drugs but declined to identify those drugs.
What to do: Do not wait until the last minute to refill existing prescriptions. Instead, find out from your pharmacy when you will become eligible for a refill—and then refill immediately at that time. Ask your doctor whether he/she can prescribe a larger supply—for example, enough for 90 days rather than 30 days. If your pharmacy runs short of a drug that you have been prescribed, call around to other pharmacies in your area—there may well be some supply of the drug you need, just not enough for every pharmacy and patient.
If you cannot find the drug you have been prescribed, call your doctor’s office and ask whether there is another drug that could be prescribed in its place. If you end up taking a different drug, ask your pharmacist to confirm that the copay you will be charged for it through your health insurance or Medicare is no greater than the copay of the drug that’s out of stock. If the copay is greater—or if this replacement drug is not covered—your pharmacist or doctor’s office might be able to appeal to your insurer to get your out-of-pocket costs reduced because the shortage of the original drug has made the replacement drug “medically necessary” for you.