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Testosterone shortage, other medications cause worry for patients

A person wearing a white button down shirt tucked into black pants, stands behind a computer in a pharmacy.
Brad Arthur, owner, and pharmacist of Black Rock Pharmacy, fills out prescription paperwork on Sept. 13 at the business.

When Elliott Bystrack started taking low-dose testosterone six months ago, they were relieved at being able to feel complete in their body.

But now low-dose, injectable testosterone is in the midst of a shortage.

That has Bystrack concerned that they, or others, won’t be able to access the medication needed.

“There can be some concerns with stretching the doses, in terms of making sure that it’s sterile,” they said. “And – you know – you’re reintroducing a needle into a vial that you’ve used a few times.”

Bystrack hasn’t had issues so far with getting prescriptions, but they say many in the trans community do have to stretch doses at times.

“There (are) ways to do it safely, but it’s, sort of, the risk of not having your medication when you need it, versus the risk of, potentially, not practicing perfect sterile technique,” they said.

It’s not the only drug in short supply. Several controlled substances, including Adderall, hydrocodone, and diabetes medication Ozempic, are in a shortage or already have been for months.

Brad Arthur, owner and pharmacist of Black Rock Pharmacy on the north side of Buffalo, says this might be the worst he’s seen in a long time.

One of the things that sets the current shortages apart is that even hospitals are having issues with some prescriptions.

Arthur attributes supply chain issues and increased demand as two of the main factors.

“Unfortunately, in my business, you have instances in where certain companies will use their strategic advantage if your other manufacturers decide not to make a product,” he said.

It’s another concern Bystrack understands well, as someone with a master’s degree in public health, and a partner who has struggled to get Adderall medication at times.

“When she doesn’t have her prescription, she’s feeling the effects immediately, Bystrack said. “Some of these medications, being without them can feel pretty bad, pretty quickly.”

It isn’t limited to family pharmacies, either. Larger pharmacies might be able to keep a larger stock at one time, but they face the same struggles as smaller entities with trying to maintain a steady supply from distributors, Arthur said.

“There (are), basically, three large suppliers that carve up, not only the US market but in many cases, international markets,” he said. “If it's impacting me, it's impacting them. I think the only difference might be that a very, very large corporation, … may have the ability to stock inventory at a time when that's just not feasible for me, because of the tremendous costs.”