Shortage of popular meds makes life difficult for some patients

(Source: NBC)
(Source: NBC)

WACONIA, MN (NBC) - A nationwide prescription drug shortage is hitting home for a lot of people. Health experts say it's one of the worst drug shortages they've seen in a nearly 30 years and they are not sure how long it will last.

Gayle Woodis has breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, MN. She hopes to be cancer free one day, but those hopes hit a roadblock when she was told her chemo drug was not available and she would have to come back when it was.

"It makes me wonder how could this happen?" she said.

Woodis is not alone. The shortage has hospital administrators scrambling to take care of patients.

"If it comes to the worst case scenario that we don't have it on a particular day, we'll ask the patient to reschedule and we'll try to get the drug as soon as we can," Stephanie Svoboda, the director of pharmacy at Ridgeview Medical Center, said.

Svoboda said while the shortage is a serious issue, Ridgeview has only had to turn away patients three times because of it.

The nationwide shortages are caused by multiple factors, including manufacturers failing to keep up with demand, production delays and tough competition from other manufacturers.

Local hospitals like Ridgeview say they are trying their best to meet patient needs.

Fortunately for Woodis she was able to get her chemo drugs within a day. However, the experience has shaken her.

"I have my next treatment in two weeks, what if it's not there? Then what do we do?" she said. "Because the type of drug that I'm on, [it] is very important that I get all the full regiment within certain time frames in order for it to be affective."

Cancer drugs are not the only ones being affected. Pain killers like morphine are also coming up short.

Currently there are 150 drugs on the FDA's shortage list.  Click here to see which medications are listed.

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.