HealthDay News — Americans are facing shortages of drugs critical for cancer treatment, respiratory conditions, and more — shortages that increased nearly 30 percent between 2021 and 2022, a new report shows. The report, commissioned by the U.S. Senate and discussed during a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, revealed a record five-year high of 295 active drug shortages.
The problem is not likely to get better soon because of how the system is regulated and the fact that many drugs or their ingredients are made outside the United States, the report noted.
“Since 2007, the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] identified an average of over 100 separate drug shortages per year,” ranking committee member Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) said during the hearing before the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “In 2011, the FDA identified a whopping 267 drugs in short supply, and despite possessing the most innovative medical industry in the world, the U.S. is unable to maintain a consistent supply of the most crucial medicines.”
Though 295 drugs were in shortage last year, the latest number is 130, according to the FDA. The average length of a shortage is 1.5 years, though some drugs are in short supply for much longer. About 15 critical drug products have been scarce for a decade, CNN reported. Albuterol sulfate is among them. The FDA has reported it as in short supply since October, while the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has been warning of a shortage since last summer. A major supplier to U.S. hospitals closed this month, likely exacerbating the issue.
Other drugs in short supply include the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Adderall. Medications like the antibiotic amoxicillin are also more likely to face shortages because they are generic and lower-priced, according to the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeia, which presented its analysis at the hearing, CNN reported. U.S. Pharmacopeia works to strengthen global supply chains.
Experts blame market consolidation as another contributor to shortages, CNN reported. In addition, there is a lack of transparency. About 80 percent of manufacturing facilities for ingredients for drugs sold in the U.S. market are in other countries, typically in China or India, where work stoppages can have a major effect. On top of that, no U.S. agency tracks those manufacturers, so shortages can come as a surprise.