Hurricane Maria made a landfall in Puerto Rico two weeks ago, ravaging the region and leaving behind the devastation of the kind never seen before. The hurricane also hit the industry of pharmaceuticals and medical devices which are the leading revenue generators for the region. Major drugmakers and federal officials within the US are scrambling to prevent drug shortages of a national magnitude, leading to fears of critical drug shortages for the treatment of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Why Is The US Concerned about Drug Shortages From Hurricane Damaged Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is home to one of the biggest centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing and the leading exports of the island are pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The factories located in Puerto Rico are manufacturing some of the largest selling brand-name drugs in the world which are used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and strokes, according to reports published a year ago. The revenue generated by the island through its drug companies and device makers is nearly close to $15 billion every year but the hurricane has left these manufacturers facing obstacles that are insurmountable.
The hurricane left the island without diesel for generators to run factories, fuel for employees to reach work, damaged roads, lack of electricity and broken down communication lines. Companies are asking employees to report to work by broadcasting advertisements over the radio. Nearly 100,000 people on the island are employed by these companies that are presently facing critical moments.
The commissioner of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb mentioned that some of the products manufactured in Puerto Rico are critical to Americans and any loss in access could leave behind public health consequences of a significant nature. Some of the drugs manufactured are coming from just a single company and include HIV medications, injectable drugs and medical devices of a sophisticated nature. The officials are not concerned about the damages to the factories which they feel are minimal but are concerned about the lack of power which they feel could jeopardize the products they need.
Fears have been expressed by officials from the FDA about procuring the drug methotrexate which is used for the treatment of leukemia in children and diseases of other types. This drug has been in short supply for quite some time and is manufactured in Puerto Rico by Mylan, along with five other manufacturers that are delivering the injectable form of the drug. They have all reported shortages of the product. Similar concerns are also being expressed for drugs of the types which could also fall in the list of products that are not available.
Pharmaceutical consultants in Puerto Rico have reported that a logistical nightmare is being encountered by drug and device manufacturers, particularly when they were trying to access fuel for their generators. It is extremely important for the island to get the pharmaceutical industry back to its feet to ensure the economic recovery of the island as well as safeguard the supply of medications and devices to the United States. As of this moment, the situation still remains critical because the authorities governing the island and the United States seems to have embroiled themselves in a war of words.
Was The Mayor Of San Juan Justified In Criticizing The Slow Pace Of Aid From The United States?
Hurricane Maria made a landfall in Puerto Rico just as other hurricanes had battered on the regions in the area. The hurricane left behind damages that were difficult to comprehend. People in Puerto Rico were struggling to get back on their feet even as the world was making an attempt to understand the devastation caused. It is possible that the United States may have been slow in its reactions in sending aid even as it sent 10,000 federal workers to be on the ground with relief efforts. Making accusations that the country was doing nothing to help Puerto Ricans or even ignoring them cannot be termed as justified. However, this was exactly the statement made by the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz via electronic media.
The mayor could well have been expressing her exasperation at the speed of aid being delivered [or the lack of it]but she made no efforts to hide her frustration clearly by indicating that the United States was not doing enough to get Puerto Rico back on its feet. She even went on to express she was being ‘nasty’ by being in attire which expressed her feelings. Wouldn’t it have been better for the mayor simply to make a public request over electronic media for speedy assistance? The United States is aware it stands to lose a great deal more by slowing down aid efforts to Puerto Rico, especially with life-saving drugs expected to be in short supply. Given the facts on the ground, one feels that the mayor should have adopted a diplomatic approach rather than a confrontational one.
The approach adopted by the mayor has brought to the forefront the differences between the Democrats and Republicans in the United States. Pres. Trump has criticized the mayor for lambasting the efforts of his administration to help Puerto Ricans after the hurricane and accused her of poor leadership also mentioning that the people of the island were not doing enough to help themselves. Comments about the mayor’s criticism being directed by the Democrats have also been made because the mayor had endorsed Hillary Clinton during the elections.
The devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria will not get better by a couple of slanging matches between politicians. It will require a community effort to get Puerto Rico back on its feet to avoid the fears of drug shortages in the US. Under the circumstances, one can only hope both parties have resolved their differences and are now making a concerted effort for the benefit of all Americans.
How do you feel about the issue? We’d love to hear your stance in the comments below…