The COVID-19 outbreak has, in a matter of weeks, stretched the American healthcare system to the near-breaking point. In the wake of escalating positive diagnoses, increased fatalities, and the scarcity of even basic resources, like masks, gowns, gloves and other types of personal protection equipment, every aspect of care that the world essentially took for granted just two months ago, are in a state of flux, including access to essential medications and the therapeutic resources that ensure vulnerable populations adhere to them. As social distancing and self-isolation endure as the standard model of prevention from infection, one of the many difficulties different healthcare populations have been experiencing difficulty maintaining their medication routine. Here are just a few of the barriers:
An access problem
The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the glaring fragility of the global medication supply chain. The vast majority of active ingredients in medicines dispensed in the US are made in factories overseas, many in China. For years, domestic and international drug manufacturers have relied on China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated, for crucial ingredients that made the effectiveness of these drugs possible. Travel and trade restrictions on Chinese goods, as well as those from other countries, have created a global scarcity for many drugs on which people rely daily. Though shortages haven’t reached “worst-case scenario levels,” there has been a marked disruption in supply, and many industry analysts are anticipating a second wave.
Is there a doctor in the house?
Another critical barrier to medication adherence in the wake of COVID-19 is the temporary shuttering of many medical practices across the country. The American Medical Association highlights the unique challenges that community and regional brick-and-mortar medical practices are facing as patients are urged to stay indoors and avoid high-risk environments like doctors’ offices when possible. Many practices have been forced to temporarily shut down or modify their care practices through telehealth integration and other means. This has created delays for those many who are uncertain how to navigate these new processes in getting their meds filled and refilled. Depending upon the condition, even a one-day delay or lapse in medication adherence can have considerable long-term health consequences.