CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Another side effect is coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic: A drug thousands of people with asthma rely on is in short supply.

Imagine you’re sick and the medication you need to stay alive is out-of-stock. That’s a real threat for people suffering from asthma and COPD, but a local pharmacist FOX 46 spoke with is working hard to keep it in stock. 

“If that curve was steeper, if it had not been flattened to the extent that our social distancing processes have, then the country could be in severe distress,” pharmacy owner Jesse Pike told FOX 46. 

Some areas across the country are seeing an albuterol shortage. The medication is frequently used by people with asthma and COPD as a rescue inhaler. Now COVID-19 patients are using it in the hospital and during recovery. 

“One of the horrible things about this viral infection is the way it robs the patient of oxygen into the lung tissues. The albuterol allows more air to flow more freely through the bronchial tubes,” Pike said. 

Pike’s Pharmacy is limiting the supply given to customers. Some insurances allow for a 90-day supply but they’re only giving enough for 30 days to ensure there’s enough to go around.  

“Pharmacists all over the country are carefully monitoring their inventory levels and also looking for sources that can be used.” 

Pike says there was also a shortage of hydroxychloroquine, used by people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, after the president inferred it could be used to treat COVID-19. 

“It’s much like what we’re seeing with each of the states competing for PPE and for medications and ventilators. It’s pretty much grab it when you can.” 

A spokesman for Atrium Health says they are not seeing an albuterol shortage. I also reached out to Novant Presbyterian, but we have not heard back at this time.