Insights

Navigating Generic Drug Shortages in Behavioral Health

Genoa Healthcare September 4, 2019

By Stephanie Kornechuk, Pharm D
Senior Vice President, Procurement & Network Management, Genoa Healthcare

New drug approvals have created new treatment options for those living with mental illness and substance use disorder. However, recent drug shortages have made it difficult for many doctors and patients to get the medicines they need. This is especially true of generic medicines.

In 2018, the Federal Drug Administration approved 781 different generic drugs[1], however, less than 60% of these approvals have reached the market.[2] Raw material shortages, manufacturing issues and increased FDA oversight are driving production delays. Some medicines are even being discontinued as manufacturers evaluate their list of products.

Many generic drugs that are common in behavioral health saw significant shortages this year. Buspirone and hydrozyxine, which are used to treat anxiety, were among the list. Flexibility in medication-therapy options is an important aspect of behavioral health and addiction treatment.

Managing medicine for this group is difficult, especially if you run into availability issues.

  • Everyone responds to antipsychotics differently, so switching medicine can be hard.
  • Some medicines used in behavioral health have low usage, and it’s hard to find suppliers willing to produce them.
  • Some patients have been on the same medication for years, but is suddenly discontinued because newer options are available.
  • Plus, many of these patients require consistency to keep taking their medications. They have a hard time managing a sudden change in pill color or shape.

Pharmacists as a Resource

Pharmacists who specialize in behavioral health treatment can help doctors and patients figure out how to deal with these unique challenges. They are familiar with behavioral health medication therapies. They’re aware of which medicines are in short supply and can help doctors find alternative solutions.

Genoa Healthcare® pharmacies specialize in behavioral health pharmacy services. We have over 470 pharmacies across the U.S., and a network of resources to help with medicine shortages.

One of our pharmacies in Indiana recently helped a patient whose insurance required him to use a specific insulin. That insulin was unavailable and wouldn’t be in stock for at least three weeks. The pharmacist obtained that specific medicine from a nearby Genoa Healthcare pharmacy and had it shipped to the patient. He didn’t miss a single dose.

Pharmacists who are on site at behavioral health centers are an invaluable resource. They provide medication expertise and guidance to the staff. They build trusting relationships with patients and create a deep understanding of each person’s needs. They recognize when patients need additional help with a change in their medicine, and help them work through it in the most positive way.

Pharmacists are on the front lines, working with patients every day. The work we do at Genoa Healthcare puts us in a unique position to address pharmacy trends, and help our partners reduce any impact on our complex patient population.


[1] https://www.biopharmadive.com/news/fda-sets-another-record-in-2018-for-generic-drug-approvals/539539/

[2] https://khn.org/news/trump-administration-salutes-parade-of-generic-drug-approvals-but-hundreds-arent-for-sale/

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