Over the course of just 2 months, COVID-19 case reports became an outbreak, then a pandemic, and we now face a national emergency; indeed, a global emergency. As early as January 2020, health systems across the United States began experiencing disruptions in delivery of supplies used for protecting health care workers. Surging prices for personal protective equipment (PPE) accompanied this disruption with a six-fold increase in the cost of surgical masks; N95 respirators trebled in price and gowns doubled.1
As this health care crisis unfolds, ongoing disruptions to the supply of critical PPE along with substantial increases in demand create difficult situations for many health care providers. In many places, clinicians have requested that the public donate any hoarded masks for health care providers to use, further underscoring the immediate need for PPE for frontline personnel.
As shortages of N95 respirators, gowns, masks, and shoe covers continue, it is imperative that pharmacies undertake inventory projection strategies, estimate the time remaining with existing inventory, and establish conservation programs. USP1, FDA2, CDC3, and state boards of pharmacy have taken the lead to assist their registrants with guidance on minimizing waste and establishing criteria for the use and reuse of garb and personal protective equipment. With effort being applied from all directions, including internally at hospitals and clinics, pharmacies must find the best solution for what could be a longer term than initially expected. With this in mind, Pharmacy Purchasing & Products is helping to collate various resources and information to help pharmacies deal with this unprecedented situation. We will continue to update these resources as they develop.
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