Shortages of common household products can be frustrating. When the products are drug vital for therapy, the increasing drug shortages reported by could endanger patients and the communities where they live. Over 170 drug shortages were reported to the FDA in 2010 and the shortages persist with almost 90 reports by the end of March 2011 indicating that rates are escalating.
That this continues to occur in the US is unexpected and alarming and has shifted health care workers attention from patient care forcing them to seek alternatives, including delaying or cancelling treatment and surgeries. The risks go beyond patient and health care worker frustration as identifying adequate drug substitutions can lead to increased chances of medication error. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/05/drug-shortages-multiplying.html
The FDA defines a drug shortage, as a situation in which the total supply of all a drug, and all of its approved alternatives, is inadequate to meet demand. What has caused these shortages? Some common causes include difficulties in manufacturing fromlocal natural disasters, reductions in the supply of raw materials (of which 80% come from outside the U.S.), product quality control issues, and voluntary recalls or FDA enforced actions to ensure public safety. Increases in product demand, manufacturer business decisions as well as consolidations in the industry, and artificial shortages due to stockpiling also have affected product availability. See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/frQL7K
This is a public health issue that needs to be addressed through multiple approaches. In November 2010, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, ASCO, the ASHP, and the ISMP conducted a drug-shortage summit with pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, the FDA and others. The resulting summit report describes the scope of the problems, discusses necessary public policy revisions and develops action plans for key stakeholders. http://www.ashp.org/drugshortages/summitreport
The recommendations of the summit included confidential, mandatory reporting to FDA of products that come from a single source, or have raw materials in short supply, require manufacturing site redundancies, recommend earlier notification to the market for product discontinuations and clarify definitions regarding drug shortages and manufacturing processes. One critical definition is what constitutes a public health emergency, where the resultant actions could be to minimize barriers to importation of global drug supplies as needed to address the shortages.
Responses to the issue of drug shortages continue daily in hospitals around the country, at supplier and manufacturing sites worldwide and under the guidance of the FDA, trade organizations, policy makers and patient advocacy groups. Ensuring sufficient and timely supply of high quality drugs is a vital healthcare issue that will not be solved overnight but one that must be solved.
For more information about the latest drug shortage reports: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/DrugShortages/default.htm and http://www.ashp.org/drugshortages