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Tipsheet

Dr. Jha Dismisses Medicine Shortages: Demand Is Unprecedented in 'Certain Places'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

As the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha sure does spend a lot of time browbeating Americans into getting their COVID vaccines and what has become an annual booster, even if his claims aren't all accurate. He's spent so much time doing so, in fact, that he doesn't appear to have saved his concern for the shortage of children's pain medicine facing the country while people, including children, experience not just COVID, but also the flu, colds, and RSV.

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Dr. Jha spoke at length with Martha Raddatz during his Sunday appearance on ABC News' "This Week," during which most of the conversation focused on COVID and vaccines. He was also asked about the lack of medicine, including Children's Tylenol and Amoxicillin, to which Raddatz said the evidence is "anecdotal." 

She brought up how Jha has claimed that the supply is out there, as is the manufacturing, reminding him "you're going to work to get that supply into pharmacies" as she asked "how do you do that? Are people hoarding?"

Dr. Jha rushed to not only supposedly correct the record, but to dismiss and downplay concerns. He claimed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and health department have been "constantly track supply, making sure that manufacturing is going well, that the distribution is going well." Jha's reasoning is that "demanded is unprecedented," and that "that increased demand, is what is causing, at moments, spot outages in certain places."

Before the segment moved on, Jha offered that "our job is to make sure that supply continues, in fact ramps up further, and that we get it into stores" which he is "confident will continue to happen," claiming the "supply is really good."

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Despite Jha's downplaying the concern as occurring in "certain places," the shortage has made national news. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are limiting sales of children's pain medicines. 

A December 9 article from L'Oreal Thompson Payton at Fortune Well included claims from FDA that there is no shortage, though the piece does acknowledge "Empty shelves at pharmacies tell a different story."

Such shortages could lead to larger problems in the long-term as well. As mentioned in an article from a December 1 article published in The Washington Post:

In the meantime, pediatricians say they worry limited access to medicines could result in more urgent-care and emergency visits as parents struggle to keep sick children comfortable.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Kristina Powell, a pediatrician in Williamsburg, Va., and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “This is a result of the ‘triple-demic.’ Parents run to Walmart or Target, the shelves are empty. … This is going to be a long fall and winter of viral infections.”

Leah highlighted Jha's responses in late November, when he and Raddatz had also discussed the problem, to which Jha had no truly substantive answer. "This is, you know, we have--we have broader supply chain issues with our medications that we've had for decades." At least during that interview he acknowledged how he himself knew the feeling, in having "seen this as a practicing clinician. I often when I walk into the hospital find some normal medicine that I'm used to using not available." Just as he did most recently, Dr. Jha also pivoted to touting vaccines and boosters.

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This isn't the only issue of supply, as the Biden administration also faced a baby formula shortage earlier this year. The bungled response from the White House involved claims that they were working on the problem, though nobody seemed to be able to provide details. As further proof of disarray and lack of communication, President Joe Biden also told reporters in June that he only became aware of the problem in April, despite how baby formula manufacturers knew in February there would be such an impact. 

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