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UAMS discusses impact of drug supply shortage

UAMS Assistant Director of Pharmacy Business Operations Chris Hutts says drug supply shortages are nothing new, but they have worsened over the last few years.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In the midst of a pandemic and at the height of allergy season, UAMS’s pharmacy operations certainly have to carry a big load of responsibility when working to keep their shelves stocked.

“We've got stock that no one else in the state has,” said Assistant Director of Pharmacy Business Operations, Chris Hutts. “We're the epicenter of drug supply for this hospital and all of our clinics in the surrounding areas. We also facilitate the buying and purchasing of all our regional programs throughout the state.”

Hutts has kept a close eye on supply and demand for the past six years.

“20 to 30% of my time is devoted to making sure and mitigating shortages and making sure that we have a plan in place,” said Hutts. “I've dealt with 612 shortages."

Though shortages are clearly nothing new, in the last few years he explained that it has only gotten worse.

“We meet twice a week on shortages, we update our pharmacy operations group and pharmacy leadership,” said Hutts. “And if it gets worse enough, we will act, inform PNT or other committees and departments.”

The list of drugs in short supply continues to grow.

“Some of the injectable steroids right now are getting tough to get,” he said. “It's about every six months, we see an anesthetic like either bupivacaine or a lidocaine go short.”

Drugs used for chemotherapy among those.

“This is not widgets, this is stuff that are lifesaving therapies, and they, they have to be that drug,” Hutts described.

He also added that luckily, they have enough so none of their patients are currently impacted. Though there's no telling what could be next.

“Some of them are kind of cyclical,” said Hutts. “We see some of them come and we're aware and we already have a lot of contingencies in place. New ones pop up frequently.”

Because of this, they try to work ahead as best they can.

“We have alternatives, we're able to mitigate it. It may be a lot more work working with direct ordering, ordering in bulk, or, you know, compounding it but we've been able to assuage through those things,” Hutts explained.

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