The worldwide COVID-19 (coronavirus infection) pandemic has a lot of people nervous about potentially running out of supplies that they rely on — whether or not there are strong reasons to believe that a given item will run out. And as has been shown recently with items like toilet paper that have no direct connection to the viral illness, sometimes a widespread fear that there will be a shortage of something — and people stocking up on it — can actually make that fear come true.
A similar situation may be developing now with insulin in the United States, with one key difference — unlike toilet paper, insulin is critical for people with diabetes who rely on it to have on hand during times of potential crisis. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that some people with diabetes — particularly those over age 60 or with other serious health conditions — stock up on basic supplies, including insulin, in case they get sick from COVID-19 and need to self-isolate and recover at home. In practice, this means that more people are stocking up on insulin, which may cause delays in getting insulin prescriptions filled at some pharmacies across the country.
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The three insulin manufacturers in the United States have acknowledged this situation in statements and press releases recently. Lilly stated in a press release on March 3 that “insulin and other medicines are available, as normal, in U.S. pharmacies,” and that “our manufacturing network is fully operational and taking steps to prevent impact.” It followed this up with an online statement on March 24, writing that the company “has received a few reports of people being told that their insulin orders are not being fulfilled due to ‘manufacturer backorder,’” but that actually, “we do not have any products on backorder, including insulin. Patients should ask their pharmacist to secure an order from their wholesaler if it’s not currently stocked in the pharmacy.”
In an online statement on March 13, Novo Nordisk wrote that “during the global coronavirus outbreak, our priorities include safeguarding the continued supply of our medicines to patients,” and that “we currently maintain about a two-month supply of insulin at our warehouses across the country, ensuring that the risk to your insulin supply is low.” Novo Nordisk insulin is manufactured in Denmark, with its U.S. supply finished and packaged in North Carolina.
The third manufacturer, Sanofi, noted through a spokesperson as quoted in a Healio article on the current insulin supply, that all of its global manufacturing facilities are operational, and that the company does not foresee any product shortages due to its supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you experience delays in getting your insulin prescription filled, talk to your pharmacist about when they expect to have your insulin ready. The delay may be only a couple of days, but if you can’t wait that long, you can try checking with another pharmacy to see if they have your insulin available.
Want to learn more about coronavirus and diabetes? Read “Coronavirus and Diabetes: What You Need to Know,” “Healthy Eating During Hard Times” and “Avoiding Coronavirus With Diabetes: Stock Up and Stay Home, CDC Says.”