90 Percent of Community Pharmacists Report Drug Shortages as COVID-19 Strains System

Drugs used to fight pandemic among the scarcest, says NCPA survey of local pharmacies

NCPA April 16, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 16, 2020) — As the coronavirus pandemic strains the U.S. health care system, an overwhelming majority of local pharmacists are having a difficult time obtaining drugs vital to the health of their patients. A new survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association finds that nearly 90 percent of neighborhood pharmacies have experienced drug shortages since March 1, 2020.

“In communities across the country, the neighborhood pharmacist is the closest health care provider to the patient,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA. “We’re trying to meet the community’s needs – whether a patient has an existing condition or someone is facing a new diagnosis – with limited resources. Getting the medicines our patients need is a serious challenge.”

The NCPA survey finds that local pharmacists are reporting shortages of albuterol inhalers, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and other drugs in high demand since the outbreak. The demand for hydroxychloroquine is especially high since President Trump touted it as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

“Pharmacists work hard to manage supplies and find solutions or alternative, safe, and effective treatment options for patients when some drugs are in short supply,” Hoey said. “The potential disruptions to the drug supply chain we’re seeing are troubling. As we look beyond COVID-19 and move to make our health care system more resilient, policymakers must look at ways to increase transparency regarding shortages and to bring more generic drug manufacturing here to the U.S.”

According to the NCPA survey, more than half of respondents say that their pharmacy plans to perform point-of-care COVID-19 testing when available. Additionally, nearly half of independent pharmacists say they have compounded hand sanitizer, and many are donating it to first responders and hospitals where the shortage is most acute.

“Neighborhood pharmacists are the safety net for their communities, retooling their practices to safely fulfill patient needs during this extraordinary time,” Hoey said. “We must ensure that these pharmacies have access to the tools they need to fight this pandemic and continue being there for patients into the future.”

This NCPA survey was conducted from April 9 through April 14. It was sent to approximately 8,000 independent pharmacy owners and managers, with approximately 510 responding.


Founded in 1898, the National Community Pharmacists Association is the voice for the community pharmacist, representing over 21,000 pharmacies that employ approximately 250,000 individuals nationwide. Community pharmacies are rooted in the communities where they are located and are among America's most accessible health care providers. To learn more, visit www.ncpa.org.