Joe Dones, who owns the local Mathes Pharmacy, said while he’s seeing signs of some drug shortages, he has been able to so far secure pharmaceuticals from other suppliers to provide for his customers. Some Southern Indiana residents have had complaints about long wait times at chain pharmacies, but none have included the local companies including Mathes and Westmoreland Pharmacy. Aprile Rickert | News and Tribune
Joe Dones, who owns the local Mathes Pharmacy, said while he’s seeing signs of some drug shortages, he has been able to so far secure pharmaceuticals from other suppliers to provide for his customers. Some Southern Indiana residents have had complaints about long wait times at chain pharmacies, but none have included the local companies including Mathes and Westmoreland Pharmacy. Aprile Rickert | News and Tribune
SOUTHERN INDIANA — Scores of Southern Indiana residents are reporting much longer than usual wait times for medications over the past few months, specifically at larger chain pharmacies in the area.

Though it’s not clear whether the worker shortage or supply issues wreaking havoc nationwide from the COVID-19 pandemic play a part, or the extra tasks as staff perform COVID tests or vaccinations, many Southern Indiana residents are frustrated at the extra hours or days they’re spending waiting for necessary medicines.

“The waits have been considerable,” Jeffersonville resident Todd Bale said Friday. “There have been times when I’ve waited three days to get Vitamin D capsules.”

Bale said he’s had better luck showing up in person and waiting in a long line rather than the “three, four, five days” he’s waited to be called for other prescriptions. He said although his medicine isn’t a life-or-death situation “if someone really needs those medications for diabetes or something going on with their kidneys, [that’s a problem.]”

He added that both Walgreens and CVS Health send automated messages to remind people far ahead of time for prescriptions, which he sees as “trying to sell more volume when they can’t process the volume that they have.”

Susan O’Neal has also had a tough time. In early August, while trying to help a friend who had just been released after an in-patient surgery, the Jeffersonville resident spent the day trying to chase her friend’s medication at different pharmacies.

O’Neal said the hospital where her friend had surgery had called in the prescription to Walgreens on Spring Street in Jeffersonville. When she arrived, the pharmacy was closed but she was uncertain why. She called the location at Holman Lane in Jeffersonville to see if it could be picked up there. She said she was seventh in line on the phone but when it got down to her number, the call was dropped.

So she went in person.

“I go inside and I’m 15th in line which is fine, I’m patient,” she said. But O’Neal said when she got to finally speak with the pharmacist, she was told it was against company policy to transfer that prescription because it was a narcotic.

It took more time and calls to reach the hospital doctor, who also tried to call and sort it out. Her friend wasn’t able to get the prescription until later in the day after they reached his family physician.

Others commented on a question on social media posted by the News and Tribune that they had had similar experiences. One woman said she was still unable to get her prescription that had been called into a Walgreens pharmacy that was closed and that her insurance would not pay for it again to be sent to another location. Another person said he had had a COVID test scheduled at Walgreens and when he arrived, found the pharmacy closed.

Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris said he’s never seen wait times like this in his 30 years as a practicing physician and that he’s “alarmed at how long it’s taking people to get prescriptions filled in our community. It’s delaying care, it’s delaying people’s access.”

He added that he has personal knowledge of an anti-inflammatory medication he’d prescribed Wednesday at an area chain pharmacy that was still not available as of Friday afternoon. Harris also said from what he’s seen and heard, the delay seems to be not with medicine for chronic issues but either new prescriptions or ones related to new illness or injury.

But the residents’ concerns appear to be aimed largely at the bigger-box pharmacies. One man reported having no wait at the locally-owned Westmoreland Pharmacy in Southern Indiana, and on Friday afternoon, there was no wait at family-owned Mathes Pharmacy on Vincennes Street in New Albany.

Mathes owner Joe Dones told the News and Tribune he has had no issues with staffing during the pandemic because “we don’t have a lot of turnover.” But, he’s started to see signs of pharmaceutical supply issues over the past several weeks.

“We’re starting to see more and more drug shortages — outages of things that have always been readily available,” he said. There hasn’t seemed to be a rhyme or reason to what is limited. “It’s just random — no particular class, there’s no pattern or anything.”

He said it hasn’t been an issue getting customers their medications because the Mathes team has just sought out those more limited drugs from different suppliers rather than their main ones.

“But I can see that if this goes on for another month or so, those not-the-main-suppliers are going to start drying up so it’s going to be harder and harder to find,” he said.

Dones said he feels it’s likely the shipping issues that have worsened in recent weeks and months of the pandemic, and “I would say it’s probably going to stay the same or get worse over the next month or so until they get things back in line with the supply-demand for everything, not just pharmaceuticals.”

The News and Tribune attempted to speak with the manager of a local Walgreens but was referred to the corporate media relations department, and a voicemail left with them Friday was not returned.

CVS Health provided this statement when asked about local residents’ concerns.

“We continue to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in addition to providing trusted pharmacy care and innovative health solutions to our patients,” it reads. “Our teams remain flexible in meeting customers’ needs in a dynamic environment, and we’ve embarked on a nationwide hiring push to continue responding to the needs of communities across the country during the fall and winter months when the incidence of flu is expected to increase and as COVID-19 vaccination and testing remain in high demand.”

The nationwide hiring push was announced in September by CVS Health, with the aim to hire 25,000 additional pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and retail associates to “support flu season, COVID-19 vaccinations and testing,” a news release said.
© 2022 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.