You'd never realize Amy Hanna has a serious medical condition. She works full time at the "Altoona Mirror" newspaper as an event planner. Her free time she devotes to animal rescue, taking in three homeless cats, Hope a stray dog found running on the street and Oakely a Golden Retriever, trying to trust after spending his life before Amy in a cage.
She's been working for two years to help him overcome his fear A more recent challenge? Finding her next dose of life-saving medication.
Amy explains, " I have a tumor in my pituitary gland, on the stalk of it that was discovered in 1988, when all of a sudden I started drinking just tons of water and not being able to retain it."
The benign tumor suppresses a hormone that makes the kidneys function normally and retain water "Every 20 minutes I think it would be a cycle of constantly having to drink and to expel, drink expel," she says. "I know where every water fountain and bathroom is wherever I go."
Surgery is too risky. For the past 24 years, Amy's taken a medication that counteracts the effects of the tumor. But recently, "I went to pick up my refill and the pharmacy said, 'Amy, we cannot get your medication. There's none to be found. We are searching right now distributors throughout the United States.' "
At Thompson's Broad Avenue Pharmacy, Peter Kreckel says "finally we were able to track some down so it does have a short expiration date on it but it'll hold her thru for the next 3 or 4 months. After that I'm not sure what we're going to do."
This shortage is only one the pharmacist struggles with as he explains, "the number one drug in this country for pain management is not available. We're not able to get methotrexate for our rheumatoid arthritis patients."
Peter says only three percent of drug shortages are caused by problems getting raw material. For more than half, the reason is never revealed, even when all at once, four or five manufacturers stop making a medication.
"I've never seen a drug go off the market because they're not able to get it, be reintroduced at a lower price or the same price. It's always at least four or five times higher than the original generic price," he says. Peter will keep looking for leads on Amy's medication, knowing she only has a couple of months-worth left.
She worries, "if the pharmaceutical companies don't rectify the situation of this temporary halt on production, what's going to become of me?"
Strangely enough for the first time this week, the FDA lists Amy's medication on its drug shortage web site and says there's a manufacturing issue with it, but there's no information on when or whether it will become available.