Shortage of asthma medication expected to worsen

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An ongoing shortage of Albuterol, an asthma medication, is expected to get worse after a major supplier shut down last week.

The FDA took measures to address the shortage that has lingered for a while by extending the expiration date on existing medication and expediting new supply lines.

After a main manufacture closed, some patients are worried they won’t be able to fill their prescriptions.

“All of a sudden, my chest starts hurting and I just physically cannot take a breath,” Samantha Fronstin, Edina resident, said.

Fronstin, who works for Hubbard Broadcasting, is one of 21 million adults across the United States who have asthma.

The health condition could take your breath away at any moment.

“When it gets to that point, I need that medication. I take my inhaler immediately,” Fronstin said.

Inside her inhaler is Albuterol, which is a common medicine used to treat patients with asthma.

But a recent hit to the pharmaceutical chain could make it harder for Fronstin to get the medicine.

“It honestly makes me terrified,” Fronstin said.

Albuterol has been on the FDA’s shortage list for months and that supply is expected to get even shorter.

One of the last major manufacturers, Akorn’s Pharmaceuticals, just pulled the plug on operations at the end of February as part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.

Pharmacies in the Twin Cities have been dealing with the lingering shortage for months.

“The Albuterol solution has been in short supply for some time. It’s hard to get it in stock,” Jim Stage, Lloyd Pharmacy owner and pharmacist, said. “We’re checking secondary and tertiary vendors if our primary vendor doesn’t have it, so it’s just creating a little bit more legwork on our part.”

Stage said the shelves are stocked with Albuterol so there’s enough to go around for now, but he’s prepared to look at other brands if it goes out of stock.

Hospitals in the Twin Cities are also bracing for the shortage to get worse.

Allina Health is using alternatives including Albuterol mixed half and half with another drug, using it sparingly or using a different medicine when it’s appropriate, according to the hospital spokesperson.

Fronstin said she’s prepared to hunt for Albuterol if she has to.

“Calling pharmacies, my doctor here asking for any connections that they have,” Fronstin said. “I would do anything I could to get this medication.”

Albuterol is currently in stock at Lloyd Pharmacy, Setzer Pharmacy and Hopkins Center Drug Pharmacy.

National health experts are advising patients to make sure not to overuse inhalers and if necessary, use an expired inhaler that is still partially effective.