Drug shortages persist across the US as pharmacy shelves remain empty
Customers are searching pharmacies around the United States as demand surges due to drug shortages.
Due to the shortage of popular prescription drugs like Adderall and amoxicillin, pharmacies are compelled to restrict the number of pills they sell.
Another justification for travel by parents of unwell kids is the quest for over-the-counter medications.
Drug shortages, according to experts, are not uncommon.
They assert that although it usually happens more quietly, it occurs regularly in the US.
David Margraf, a pharmaceutical research scientist from the Resilient Drug Supply Project at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said:
“Shortages hit a lot of different patient populations with different drugs and whatnot, but many of those don’t get a lot of headline news because they’re very niche.”
The reason for the empty shelves can vary based on the place and the drug at any given time because every shortage has its own unique causes.
“They’re all a different tale,” said Margraf.
“There’s commonalities between them, but each one is a little bit different, and it’s very tedious trying to figure out what’s going on sometimes.”
Drug shortages are frequently problematic since there aren’t enough economic incentives to develop them.
However, availability may also be impacted by a scarcity of ingredients, labor issues, or production delays.
Despite being a global leader in developing novel therapies, the US nevertheless depends on other countries for the production of its medications.
Bindiya Vakil claims that imports from China and India account for a large portion of the raw ingredients required to make new drugs.
Vakil is the CEO of Resilinc, a company that tracks supply chains and maps them to notify clients as soon as danger arises.
Disruptions in China or India could have a cascading effect on goods supplies (such as a work stoppage at a Chinese firm because of its recently relaxed zero Covid policy).
Despite normal product levels, the current cold and flu season in the US may make it difficult for families to find what they need due to high demand.
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Several groups around the nation are tracking drug shortages.
The nonprofit American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists represents hospital pharmacists.
It keeps track of claims of drug shortages in the US and verifies the information by getting in touch with manufacturers.
Nonprofit organizations define drug shortages as issues with the supply that affect how a pharmacy prepares or dispenses pharmaceuticals or that have an impact on patient care if doctors are obliged to use alternatives.
Data from the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists show that as of late September, there were 260 active drug shortages, down from the 264 shortages reported in the second quarter of 2022.
Two hundred eighty-two active shortages were present in the second quarter of 2019, which was close to the record high.
The FDA keeps an eye on drug shortages and receives information directly from manufacturers.
However, it defines shortages differently.
Pharmaceuticals are said to be in short supply when all commercially available goods are insufficient to meet the current demand.
Additionally, shortages occur when a legitimate alternative producer cannot meet present or future demand, keeping patients in the dark.
According to the FDA, there are currently fewer drugs in limited supply than there were in 2011 when there were 251.
They kept an eye on 41 drug shortages in 2021.
Three hundred seventeen shortages were averted that year.
To address the “persistent problem” of medicine shortages, the FDA formed a task force in 2019.
It could be challenging to resolve when they occur because some situations last for years.
For instance, the demand for Adderall surged considerably between 2020 and 2021.
Leading manufacturer Teva attributed the delays to a lack of laborers.
But the problem has since been resolved.
Because Adderall is a controlled substance, it is governed by tight government laws.
The Drug Enforcement Administration imposes manufacturing limitations to prevent patient misuse.
According to David Margraf, Adderall shortages are anticipated to last until 2023.
Typically, generic medications that run out are affordable injections.
They have strict production requirements, which makes them expensive to produce.
Additionally, because of their lower profit margins, firms find it less viable to produce them.
Some generics, like antibiotics, are vulnerable to shortages, though.
Researchers claim that the problem recently affected a few amoxicillin formulations.
Companies generally produce generic pharmaceuticals on demand rather than keeping stock on warehouse shelves.
Several manufacturers claim that the 2022 orders did not cover the increased demand.
Even when companies become aware of scarcity, manufacturing and shipping different products takes weeks or months.
Senior Director Vimala Raghavendran works for the US Pharmacopeia (USP), a nonprofit group that sets high standards for the following:
- Dietary supplements
“Really, it comes down to economics,” offered Raghavendran.
USP has tracked pharmaceutical supply chains for the past three years using its Medicine Supply Map to identify and stave off potential shortages.
“Antibiotics are 42% more likely to be in shortage compared to other classes of drugs,” said Raghavendran.
“They have lower price points, so there’s less incentive for manufacturers to invest in excess capacity.”
“And then you throw in an unexpected shock, like a demand increase because of the surge in RSV and the flu and Covid, and the supply chain is not able to absorb that shock.”
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There are systems and backup plans in place to avoid drug shortages.
If there is an interruption in the supply or production of medicine, manufacturers are required to inform the FDA.
It frequently makes it possible for the business to avoid problems.
However, companies are not currently required to alert the FDA to increased demand.
“But that’s something we’re really encouraging companies to do,” said an official.
“Let us know if there’s a spike in demand so that we can work with them early on, just as they can with supply disruptions.”
Drug shortages are a primary priority for the Biden administration, according to the White House.
The government highlighted the executive order on America’s supply chains that President Joe Biden signed in February of the prior year.
It instructed the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and record risks in the supply chain for pharmaceuticals and their active ingredients and make recommendations for reducing those risks.
Empty pharmacy shelves shine a light on vulnerabilities in US drug supplies