US Faces All-Time High Drug Shortage, Data Shows

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John Oyewale Contributor
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The U.S. is facing its worst drug shortage since the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) started tracking them in 2001, a Thursday statement by the association reads.

“During the first quarter of 2024, ASHP and our partner, the University of Utah Drug Information Service [UUDIS], tracked 323 active shortages. This is an all-time high, surpassing the previous record of 320 shortages in 2014,” Paul Abramowitz, ASHP’s CEO, said in the statement.

Abramowitz acknowledged in his statement that the current record of 323 active drug shortages represented a worsening situation.

The current record is the highest number of shortages since 2004, which had 320, according to the CEO.

Unknown reasons or reasons drug manufacturers surveyed by the UUDIS in 2023 would not provide caused about 60% of the shortages, the data shows. The forces of demand and supply shaped 14% of the shortages. Challenges relating to raw materials formed the least number of reasons (2%).

“New DEA quota changes, along with allocation practices established after opioid legal settlements, are exacerbating shortages of controlled substances (12% of all active shortages),” the data reads.

“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,” Abramowitz said in his statement. “Ongoing national shortages of therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also remain a serious challenge for clinicians and patients.” (RELATED: Americans Sour On Big Pharma After Pandemic, Opioid Crisis: POLL)

The ASHP has been leaning on advocacy in a bid to drive down the shortages, Abramowitz’s statement says. Some of the advocacy efforts included playing an advisory role within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Joint Supply Chain Working Group, joining White House-sponsored discussions with stakeholders to generate solutions and making recommendations to lawmakers and senators.

The ASHP was pleased that the HHS, Congress and the White House were considering its recommendations. However, the association also expressed concern hospitals struggling to combat the shortages could face fines proposed by the HHS. The ASHP would continue its effort to influence policymaking that will address the shortages, the CEO said.

“It’s long past time to put an end to drug shortages,” Abramowitz said.