dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Critical Medication Shortages & New Laws for Pain Drugs: What Pain Patients *Need* to Know

There’s a lot happening right now in the United States with regard to the medications used by pain patients. It’s important that we are all aware of what’s going on and we know what we can do about it.


The supply of injectable Methotrexate, a drug used to treat adults with rheumatoid arthritis and a strain of childhood leukemia, could be running out within weeks. You can read about the critical shortage in an article by the New York Times HERE

The FDA says it is cautiously optimistic that fresh supplies of the drug are slated to be released this month, but doctors are worried some patients’ care will be interrupted and compromised.

What can patients with painful rheumatoid arthritis do? Check now with your doctor and find out how much Methotrexate your doctor can access. Ask if there is another biologic you could take. Get talking with your treatment team about what other options you might consider. And if the FDA is right, you may not really have anything to worry about.


What should you do if a medication you rely on for your treatment suddenly is not available? Here’s what the Harvard Health Blog says:

“If your doctor recommends a drug that is in short supply, ask about other medications that might work for you. Your doctor may be able to find something equally tolerable and effective, perhaps in a different class of drug. If there aren’t any alternatives, your doctor, working with a pharmacist, may be able to track down a supply. When a medication is in short supply be especially wary of Internet or faxed advertisements for alternatives (often highly priced and sometimes counterfeit).”


In 2010 there were 178 drug shortages and this year that number is rising above 265 so far. These scarce medications are used for anesthesia, pain, heart treatment, ADHD, central nervous system conditions, infections, and more.

Why is this happening? There are numerous reasons, including an increase in demand, shortages of ingredients, problems with quality control, other manufacturing problems, and the business decision to stop making older drug that aren’t as profitable. 

You can read more about drugs shortages and what the FDA is trying to do about it, by going here:


Since last year, I have been championing all anti-Fail First legislation across the country (if you don’t know about Fail First, click HERE). However, there are many other laws which can more directly affect us as pain patients, as evidenced last year in Washington State - which totally  scares me when I read about it.

This week I got an email alert from the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association warning me about pending legislation in other states, particularly New Mexico and Florida. If you go to their Action Alert Page there’s a map showing the entire country. When you click on your state it reveals what laws are being voted on which could directly affect your access to pain medication.

Don’t turn a blind eye and think that you’ll always be able to get your meds with no problem. We need to remain vigilant so our rights are protected. When an unfair bill is pending, make sure your voice is heard by your political representatives. Be willing to speak up in an email, call, fax, or sign petitions when the time comes to act before a bad law is passed. 

We all have to stand up as pain patients and be heard!

1 comment:

  1. So sad but so true. I find it ironic that sick people often in alot of pain have to fight at every single turn and corner of their lives to be sure they get the best treatment they can, the most affordable treatment they can, and sometimes any treatment at all...ie - lack of meds or even pulling of pain meds they use from the market. Something is broken here, very broken and it needs to be fixed. I for one only have a limited amount of energy and I am finding it just exhausting having to always fight insurance companies, the medical community at large and now our own government both state and federal to insure we have any coverage left at all, the meds we need available and worse...affordable coverage. It is just exhausting and unfortunately so necessary to do.


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