NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— A much-needed medication is in short supply but the demand for it remains high.

That drug, Albuterol, used to treat asthma patients and other breathing disorders, preferably the variety used in hospitals is in critically short supply. There is currently no word as to when the shortage will end.

Physician in Chief at Children’s Hospital Dr. Mark Kline says one major factor hurting supply is the limited number of suppliers in the United States.

“One of the main factories producing Albuterol, one of the main factories in the Chicago area closed down and so the production is just not diversified. All of our eggs are in one basket,” said Kline.

According to Kline, not all forms of the drug are in short supply, “The issue is the liquid albuterol, the stuff that’s put into the machine for children who are here in the hospital. For a few young children at home too.”

At Chateau Drugs in Metairie, Pharmacist Kerry Milano says the shortage of the drug results in patients paying more out of pocket, “The insurance has a set fee, they go by the price of when the thing was available, they’re paying you that price. They’re not going to pay you the new price. So either you eat or the customer gets it.”

Akron Pharmaceuticals is said to be the company at the heart of it all after the shutdown of all three of its plants amid a second bankruptcy in the past three years.

Due to the low supply, doctors have had to get creative when treating patients.

“We’ve managed to find supplies in most cases. We use alternative medications when we have to, and in some cases, we’ve gone to the metered dose inhaler, rather than to the nebulizer machine,” said Kline.

Kline also blames the rising number is RSV and COVID cases for the shortage. Both Kline and Milan say they see no end in sight for the shortage, “I think it does relate, indirectly at least to the COVID pandemic and to the epidemic we’ve had of so many other respiratory viruses over the past 6 months because the demand has been extraordinary. We’ve had so many children admitted to this hospital and many other hospitals with respiratory virus illnesses. And many of them do require albuterol for treatment.”

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