Wall Street Times

Drug shortage a problem for families across the US

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Due to drug shortages, customers are searching pharmacies around the United States.

Pharmacies are forced to limit the quantity of pills they offer as a result of the shortage of well-known prescription medications like Adderall and amoxicillin.

Parents of sick children may also travel in order to find over-the-counter drugs.


Experts claim that drug shortages are prevalent.

They claim that even though it typically occurs more subtly, it happens frequently in the US.

David Margraf, a pharmaceutical research scientist from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, stated:

“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.”

Because every scarcity has its own distinct reasons, the explanation for the bare shelves can change depending on the location and the drug at any particular time.

“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.”


Since there aren’t enough commercial incentives to produce new medications, drug shortages are usually a concern.

However, a lack of ingredients, labor concerns, or production delays could also have an impact on supply.

Although the US is a global leader in the development of innovative cures, it still depends on other nations to provide its medications.

According to Bindiya Vakil, a sizable amount of the raw materials needed to create new pharmaceuticals are imported from China and India.

Vakil is the CEO of Resilinc, a business that maps and tracks supply networks to alert customers as soon as danger develops.

Supply disruptions might spread from China or India and affect the flow of commodities (such as a work stoppage at a Chinese firm because of its recently relaxed zero Covid policy).

Despite normal product levels, the current US flu and cold season may make it challenging for families to locate what they need due to increased demand.

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Numerous organizations across the country keep tabs on drug shortages.

Hospital pharmacists are represented by the nonprofit American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists.

It monitors reports of medicine shortages in the US and contacts producers to confirm the information.

Drug shortages are defined by nonprofit organizations as problems with the supply that have an influence on how a pharmacy prepares or dispenses medications or that have an impact on patient care if doctors are forced to utilize substitutes.

As of late September, there were 260 active medicine shortages, down from the 264 shortages reported in the second quarter of 2022, according to data from the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists.

In the second quarter of 2019, there were 198 active shortages, which was very almost a record high.

The FDA monitors medicine shortages and receives updates from producers directly.

However, it has a different definition of shortages.

When all commercially accessible commodities are insufficient to match the current demand, pharmaceuticals are said to be in short supply.

Furthermore, shortages happen when an authorized substitute producer is unable to satisfy current or future demand, keeping patients in the dark.

The FDA reports that fewer medications are currently in limited supply than there were in 2011, when there were 251.

In 2021, they monitored 41 medication shortages.

In that year, shortages of 317 were prevented.

The FDA established a task force in 2019 in order to address the “chronic problem” of medication shortages.

Because certain circumstances linger for years, they could be difficult to settle when they arise.

For instance, Adderall demand significantly increased between 2020 and 2021..

Leading maker Teva blamed labor shortage for the delays.

However, the issue has subsequently been fixed.

As a prohibited substance, Adderall is subject to stringent legal restrictions.

To stop patient abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration places production restrictions.

David Margraf predicts that Adderall shortages would persist into 2023.


Typically, inexpensive injections are generic drugs that run out.

They are expensive to produce because of the rigorous production standards.

Additionally, businesses find it less practical to produce them due to their smaller profit margins.

However, some generics, such as antibiotics, are susceptible to shortages.

The issue, according to researchers, recently afflicted a few amoxicillin versions.

Instead than storing a stock of generic medications on warehouse shelves, companies often make them as needed.

The increased demand, according to several manufacturers, was not met by the 2022 orders.

Even when businesses become aware of scarcity, it might take weeks or months to manufacture and distribute various products.

Vimala Raghavendran, Senior Director, works for the US Pharmacopeia (USP), a nonprofit organization that establishes strict guidelines for the following:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Food 
  • Medications

“Really, it comes down to economics,” offered Raghavendran.

Using its Medicine Supply Map, USP has studied pharmaceutical supply chains for the past three years in an effort to spot and prevent any 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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Staying ahead

To prevent drug shortages, systems and backup plans are in place.

Manufacturers must notify the FDA if there is a disruption in the supply or production of drugs.

The business can usually avoid issues thanks to it.

Companies are not, however, currently compelled to inform the FDA of rising 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.”

According to the White House, drug shortages are the Biden administration’s top priority.

The administration emphasized President Joe Biden’s executive order on American supply chains, which he had issued in February of the previous year.

It gave the Department of Health and Human Services secretary instructions to identify, track, and recommend ways to lower risks in the supply chain for pharmaceuticals and their active ingredients.


Empty pharmacy shelves shine a light on vulnerabilities in US drug supplies