Strong flu season causing medication supply problems for local pharmacies

The flu season is in full swing, combining with COVID-19 and RSV for a winter season filled with climbing respiratory disease numbers.
Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 10:46 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The flu season is in full swing, combining with COVID-19 and RSV for a winter season filled with climbing respiratory disease numbers, sweeping the United States, as the Center for Disease Control reports over six million reported cases of influenza. In Wisconsin, DHS is tracking a rising trend in flu cases across the state.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of concern about that triple threat of viruses that are going around,” said the communications coordinator for Public Health Madison and Dane County, Morgan Finke. “The encouraging news from the CDC is that the influenza vaccine this season is a very good match for the flu strains going around.”

Finke says one of the best defenses against the high number of respiratory illnesses is getting updated vaccines. But demand for not just shots but various medical needs keeps area pharmacies busy.

“We’ve been booked out probably two or three weeks out for vaccines right now,” said Mount Horeb Family Pharmacy co-owner Jennifer Weiland.

According to DHS’ weekly respiratory virus surveillance report, influenza PCR test results topped 5,000 positive tests at the end of November, starkly contrasting to the under 1,000 positive case number reported at the end of October. The demand means places like Mount Horeb Family Pharmacy is now seeing roughly 300 people a day for shots and prescriptions, a number Weiland says is triple what the pharmacy has seen in prior winters.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick. There’s a lot of supply chain issues, a lot of things out of stock,” said Weiland.

Weiland adds the need for medicine is exacerbating supply chain issues, causing back orders and delays for crucial medication.

“If you look at a pharmacy and talk about the top 200 drugs, use that as just your baseline; these are the very popular, common things that people need,” said Weiland. “Out of those top 200 drugs, there are about 25 on backorder right now, which means it may be weeks or months before I can get that in things as common as amoxicillin.”

Another thing putting strain on a supply chain under duress the past few years is staffing shortages at other pharmacies. When other pharmacies cannot keep their doors open consistently due to staffing, Weiland says people go elsewhere, putting more strain on the resources at places like Mount Horeb Family Pharmacy.

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