AUG 10, 2014

Drug shortages continue to occur in the United States. The number of drugs in short supply or completely unavailable may have gone down, but that number is still high. Worse, the types of products in short supply are as important as drugs used to fight cancer or as ubiquitous as normal saline for IV injection.

In 2011, FDA received reports of 251 drug shortages, of which 183 were sterile injectable drugs. In 2012, 117 new drug shortages arose, 84 of which were sterile injectable drugs — but this number does not reflect the number of drug shortages that originated earlier and were continuing.

“The number of new shortages has gone down in the last few years, but the total number of drugs on shortage has remained the same, if not gone up a little,” said Allen Vaida, PharmD, executive vice president with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Horsham, Penn.

A national survey of 358 directors of pharmacy conducted in 2013 found that 99% (211 out of 214) reported that they had experienced a shortage of an injectable oncology drug in the previous year. And 64% said that they had completely run out of at least one injectable oncology drug.1

“It is unbelievable that in the United States we have this level of drug shortage,” said Erin R. Fox, PharmD, director of the Drug Information Service at University of Utah Health Care in Salt Lake City. “A manufacturing failure on this scale in any other industry would get so much attention.”