Pills, all different kinds, image via Wikimedia

Number of Active Drug Shortages in US Hit Highest Level Since Tracking Began

The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis in drug shortages, with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) reporting a record-breaking 323 active shortages as of March 2023.

This alarming figure surpasses the previous high of 320 shortages documented in 2014, underscoring the severity of the situation and the urgent need for action.

Disturbingly, the majority of manufacturers have failed to provide reasons for these shortages, leaving healthcare providers and patients in the dark.

According to the ASHP report, only 40 percent of manufacturers cited factors such as supply and demand issues, manufacturing problems, business decisions, and raw material scarcity as contributing to the crisis.

The impact of these shortages is far-reaching, affecting a wide range of drug classes and putting patient lives at risk.

As the ASHP statement reveals, “Some of the most worrying shortages involve generic sterile injectable medications, including cancer chemotherapy drugs and emergency medications stored in hospital crash carts and procedural areas.”

Additionally, the ongoing shortage of treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder continues to pose significant challenges for both clinicians and patients.

It is shameful that in a nation as advanced and resourceful as the United States, we find ourselves grappling with such a critical shortage of essential medications.

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The fact that we rely heavily on foreign countries for the manufacture of these drugs only exacerbates the problem and highlights the pressing need for a more self-sufficient approach to drug production.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a set of recommendations to address the drug shortage crisis, incorporating policies suggested by the ASHP.

While the group commended the inclusion of their recommendations, they expressed deep concern over the HHS’s proposal to penalize hospitals that fail to adopt mandated inventory and purchasing practices.

As the ASHP pointed out, “Hospitals are often hit hard by drug shortages. We are deeply concerned that HHS proposes to impose financial penalties on hospitals that may be least able to take steps, such as investing in buffer inventories, to prevent shortages.”

It is imperative that we recognize the drug shortage crisis as a national security issue and take swift, comprehensive action to rectify the situation.

The United States must prioritize the development of a robust domestic drug manufacturing infrastructure, ensuring an adequate and reliable supply of essential medications for its citizens.

By reducing our reliance on foreign countries and investing in our own capabilities, we can safeguard the health and well-being of our population and prevent future shortages from occurring.

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The time for action is now. We cannot afford to stand idly by as patients suffer and lives are put at risk due to a lack of access to vital medications.

Image via Wikimedia