How Is The Availability Of Medicine Affected During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

It’s said that the Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has placed an enormous strain on almost all global industries across the board. The tourism sector had to temporarily stop all kinds of travel while a large number of businesses ended up shifting to a remote workforce setup.

On top of that, health systems worldwide have been put under immense pressure for they are primarily responsible for containing the spread of infection while at the same time responding to other non-pandemic health emergencies. But another collateral impact brought by the pandemic to the healthcare systems is its influence on the availability of medicines worldwide.   

Discussed below are a number of key points discussing how COVID-19 affected medicine availability and what they mean for the consumers and pharmacy supply chains moving forward. 

Provisional Lockdown Of Medicine Manufacturing Sites   

The pandemic is said to have caused industries and businesses to momentarily undergo lockdowns to prevent the disease from spreading and mitigate people’s risk of contracting it. Unfortunately, the implemented lockdown also meant medicine manufacturing sites had to close down temporarily.   

Even manufacturing sites that use automated systems and sophisticated manufacturing tools are believed to have experienced difficulty resuming their production due to mobility restrictions and labor shortages. As a result, the availability of medicines, drug products, medical devices, and even personal protective equipment was adversely affected, eventually affecting the overall supply chain.   

Thankfully, some pharmaceutical companies like and others were able to adapt and calibrate action plans to minimize the pandemic’s impact on their medical productions. These may include active monitoring of their supply chain, inventory control, finding alternative suppliers, and continuous communication with their vendors. These practices were designed to avoid supply disruption and keep up with the demand for medicines.  

Suspension Of Drug And Medicine Exports  

As mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected other industries, including travel and transportation. 

Because of the implemented travel restrictions, international drug and medicine exports have been suspended and the delivery process of medication and medical supplies was momentarily halted. For that reason, some countries that rely on international medicine suppliers were affected and the availability and supply of medicines were eventually reduced.   

Some countries have also implemented a country-specific medicine export ban. This regulation was focused on limiting interaction and product exchange, specifically in countries that are badly affected by the pandemic or have been recorded with a high number of positive COVID-19 cases. This, in turn, had an enormous effect on the availability of medicines.  

Furthermore, the delivery time for regional or national medicine suppliers was also delayed, mainly impacting time-sensitive medicine deliveries. Overall, the suspension of medicine exports and implementation of travel restrictions have affected the availability of medicines and led to a global medicine shortage.   

Surged Demand For Specific Medicines  

As mentioned, some medicines that were typically used to treat other conditions were now considered as alternative medication against the virus symptoms. With that said, the demand for these specific medicines has surged, resulting in medicine shortages.   

These medication shortages have also forced some healthcare professionals and pharmacists to prescribe second or third-line treatment options as substitutes to out-of-stock medicines. Nonetheless, these alternative medicines may be less effective, less familiar to the consumers, and may potentially show side effects, especially for first-time users.  

Medicine Hoarding By Citizens or Hospitals  

When the pandemic initially happened, panic and anxiety mostly dominated worldwide. It’s true, especially when deaths caused by COVID-19 have aired on the news. 

Consumer behavior changed quickly. Many citizens quickly responded by stockpiling their food and water supplies since most grocery stores and markets were closed and the global lockdown was regulated. But aside from food and water, citizens and some hospitals were also quick to hoard medicines after knowing that some medications can help alleviate virus symptoms.   

Because of this, the availability of medicines was greatly affected, and other citizens were deprived of medication access. Fortunately, the government and the healthcare system have taken action to prevent medicine hoarding by limiting the supply for each citizen. Each buyer was only allowed to buy medicines based on their needs and not stockpiling purposes during this critical period.

Increased Medicine Purchasing Costs 

With the finite supply and availability of medicine, some drug stores also had to increase the prices of their medicines. This is due to the high purchasing costs, especially since exporting and importing medicines have been restricted or limited. Thus, pharmacy outlets and drug stores had no choice but to pay high purchasing costs and increase their selling rates. Eventually, this action also makes it harder for some citizens with limited funds to buy and have access to drugs.

The Bottom Line 

In conclusion, COVID-19 has dramatically affected the availability of medicines. It has significantly influenced the manufacturing, production, supply, and distribution of medications. 

For now, the best way to sustain access and availability of medicines during this critical time is by implementing preparedness strategies done by medicine manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. These strategies may include inventory control, supply chain monitoring, and negotiating with alternative suppliers.

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