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KC pharmacies, drugstores struggle to keep up with medication demand as flu, cold cases rise

Posted at 6:32 PM, Dec 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-09 08:16:57-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rapid demand for over-the-counter medications for viral illnesses has put a strain on Kansas City-area pharmacies and drugstore chains, including Spalitto’s Pharmacy, a fourth-generation family business that has been serving KC since 1929.

Anthony Spalitto is the manager at Spalitto’s Pharmacy. He says keeping the shelves stocked has been tough since the pandemic.

“It’s hard to get product," Spalitto said. "Product comes in quick and goes out quick. With COVID and flu both hitting at the same time this year, it’s been tough. A lot of people are sick right now — we hear it on the phone.”

Shipments come through his doors daily, but the question is: Are the products they want inside the boxes? Spalitto says manufacturers do not even have the supply to stock the shelves.

The lack of medication is partly due to the ongoing supply chain shortage, but it also has to do with an influx of online prescribers that spiked during the age of telehealth.

“A lot of the times, they actually limit the amount you can order at one time," Spalitto said. "So you just have to stay on it each day and try to have the right stuff for your patients. But the problem is you can’t stock too much [because] then it’s gone or it expires.”

Regardless of the circumstance, demand is still up. Unfortunately, less supply and more demand also mean higher costs for everyone.

“We’re in a low-income area, so demographically it’s hard for these patients to pay $20 for cold medicine when they are sick,” Spalitto said.

Spalitto says projecting consumer behavior is like a cat and mouse game, trying to figure out when to buy, how much to buy and what to do when nothing is there. He just hopes Christmas comes early this year.

“We’re hoping supply will [eventually] meet demand. A lot of these are saying mid-December we should be able to get more product in,” Spalitto said.