FOX47 NEWS - Oxycodone Shortage

Jeff Angileri
Jan 27, 2009, 10:16 PM

Pharmacies across Madison are scrambling to find supply of a commonly-prescribed painkiller.

For people suffering from intense pain, Oxycodone is a wonder drug.

It's also a highly-controlled narcotic. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) only allows manufacturers to make a certain number every year, because of drug abuse concerns.

Now, even some legitimate distributors can't get their hands on it.

Two out of the five companies are not able to make it, said Russ Jensen, director of pharmacy at St. Mary's Hospital. The other three just can't produce enough to compensate for the other two that are unable to provide it.

St. Mary's Hospital is expecting a one to two week delay before its next Oxycodone shipment arrives, though it has enough supply to last until then.

Neighborhood pharmacies, on the other hand, have no clue when they'll get more.

It's an extreme, extreme problem, said Roberta Carrier of Mallatt Pharmacy.

She's among the local pharmacists who are worried about the effects the shortage will have on patients.

The ramifications if we can't get it are very serious, she said. We're talking withdrawal, or trying to figure out how to switch them to another product such as a morphine tablet.

Finding alternative medications takes time. Doctors need to sign off on the change, and pharmacists say that could cause confusion for patients. And, in some cases, they were prescribed Oxycodone because their bodies couldn't handle other drugs. Pharmacists say it could be a waiting game.

Supplies are just trickling in bit by bit, and not anywhere near the demand for it, Carrier said.

A DEA spokesperson in Chicago says this is not a nationwide shortage, and if pharmacies can't get supply, it's likely their manufacturer has reached its quota.

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