Drug Industry Seeking to Calm Y2K Fears

Companies fear consumers will hoard drugs leading to shortages by January 1 While others worry about the computer Y2K bug infecting computers, the drug and health care products industry is grappling with the possibility of panicky consumers causing drug shortages as New Year's Eve approaches.

"If everyone were to get an extra month, it would throw (the system) out of whack," said Mark Grayson, spokesman for the drug industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in a press report. "Once the medications are in somebody's medicine cabinet, they're obviously not available to anybody else."

Eli Lilly and Co., which sells some of America's biggest drugs and is a major provider of insulin, is urging patient groups such as the American Diabetes Association to help guide their members.

Baxter International Inc., which provides an array of products including home-based dialysis systems asked wholesalers to place any extra orders by July 1 to cover contingency plans and expected consumer buying sprees. Baxter reportedly received fewer than 250 extra orders. A spokeswoman for the company reportedly says that number was relatively small and Baxter is re-contacting its clients.

A spokeswoman for AmeriSource Health Corp., the fourth largest U.S. wholesale pharmaceutical distributor, said the company expected pharmacies to obtain about an extra week's worth of stock near the end of the year and has started to build its own inventory in preparation.

Information technology research firm Odin Group recently surveyed 40 drug companies for Y2K preparation information. A spokesperson for Odin says the company's research indicates the industry is in very good shape and there really isn't a lot of reason for concern by individual consumers.

DATE: 9/02/99

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