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WENATCHEE - Working in a pharmacy isn't what it used to be for many pharmacists and pharmacy techs. iFIBER ONE News spoke to a Walgreens pharmacist in Washington state on Thursday who says many customers needing to fill their prescriptions need to send in orders several days in advance due to struggling pharmaceutical supply chains.

A recent report published by John Hopkins University states that the pandemic, more than ever, is provoking unprecedented shifts in demand and new uncertainties in production and distribution of essential medications. 

"Documented shortages in recent months have included medications used to treat COVID-19 itself, medications used in intensive care, and medications for related conditions. These shortages point to serious vulnerabilities in the pharmaceutical supply chain that can compromise the response to future crises as well as new waves of the current epidemic that may be yet to come," the report stated. 

According to John Hopkins University, the United States imports many finished drug products and raw materials required for drug manufacture from Europe, India and China , including active pharmaceutical ingredients. The shortages associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have affected both active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished pharmaceutical products.

"China is a major source of active pharmaceutical ingredients for antibiotics, antihypertensives and antivirals. Due to the pandemic , many factories in China had to close temporarily, leading to a halt in production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished products. Some of these factories have since reopened but they are understaffed due to government instituted lock-downs and quarantined employees. Lock-downs have also led to shortage of raw materials needed for manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients because some suppliers have not resumed work. This has disrupted the production of certain drugs dispensed in the unit," the report stated. 

John Hopkins University also indicated that travel bans have also complicated medication production as well. 

The pharmacist we spoke to says instigating factors also include staffing shortages due to employees quitting. He says many employees are overwhelmed because they now, not only fill prescriptions, but test for COVID-19 and administer vaccines as well.