Governor Kristi Noem speaks July 12, 2023, during a press conference at a Lewis Drug pharmacy in Sioux Falls. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)
SIOUX FALLS — Governor Kristi Noem announced Wednesday the state will create additional stockpiles of prescription drugs to combat shortages.
The Department of Health already has an emergency stockpile of antibiotics in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Noem is expanding that program to five additional cities – Aberdeen, Hot Springs, Mobridge, Pierre and Yankton. And in addition to the antibiotics currently stockpiled, the state is adding albuterol, epinephrine, insulin, prednisone, and pediatric amoxicillin.
Noem shared the news during a press conference at a Lewis Drug pharmacy.
“We’ve never had a cache of medications stored in those communities,” she said. “We will start doing that today.”
After the press conference, South Dakota Searchlight asked the governor’s spokesman how much it will cost to stockpile the additional drugs and how it will be funded. He deferred the question to the state Department of Health, which had not yet provided the information prior to this story’s publication.
The governor is also sending letters to congressional leaders, South Dakota’s congressional delegation, and the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The letters urge them to take action to address the national shortage.
Noem said the issue is personal for her.
“When my son, Booker, was growing up, he relied on the prescription drug albuterol on an almost daily basis,” Noem said. “Without it, he would not have been able to breathe. Imagine my shock when I recently learned that a widespread and long-lasting shortage of this critical drug and others has been impacting America.”
The U.S. is grappling with historic prescription drug shortages. Affected medications include those used for diabetes, chemotherapy, antibiotics, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and more. Drug shortages increased by nearly 30% between 2021 and 2022, according to a new Senate committee staff report. The report says about 80% of generic drugs come from outside the U.S. – primarily India and China.
In South Dakota, the shortages can get particularly bad in winter.
“The cupboards were bare at our pharmacies for months this last season,” Melissa Magstadt, secretary of the state Department of Health, said during the press conference.
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William Ladwig, a consultant pharmacist with Lewis Drug, also spoke. He said the shortage has multiple causes, including a global supply chain dependent on too few suppliers.
Additionally, he said pricing pressures drive up costs and discourage those few manufacturers from producing certain medications.
“The plastics and the shipping cost more than the drug, and that makes it difficult,” Ladwig said.
Magstadt echoed the point.
“Manufacturing these cheap generics has not been fiscally sound in the U.S.,” she said, “leaving the drug manufacturing work to be completed cheaply overseas.”
Magstadt said when so many drugs are manufactured overseas, any disruption to that supply chain can cost lives.
Wednesday’s press conference came after Noem signed an executive order on May 11. It required the Department of Health to investigate the shortage and issue a report with recommendations by June 12.
The new report’s recommendations include the five new stockpile locations, as well as more analysis of the state’s situation, informing the public, and putting pressure on the federal government to do more.
In her executive order, Noem pointed to an “overreliance on foreign sources for medications and their raw materials.” The order said the vast majority of generic drug facilities are in China and India, leaving “South Dakota at China’s mercy for vital health care supplies.”
Drugs joining the state’s cache:
- Albuterol is used to treat asthma and chronic breathing issues.
- Epinephrine is used to treat severe allergic reactions.
- Insulin is used to regulate blood sugars.
- Prednisone is commonly used to treat inflammation.
- Pediatric amoxicillin is used to treat bacterial infections in children.
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