Drug Shortages in the United States


Shortages of critical medications are on the rise, according to a new report released by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Titled, Short Supply: The Health and National Security Risks of Drug Shortages, the report details the causes behind the drug shortages and the implications towards public health and national security.

According to the findings, the number of new drug shortages increased almost 30% between 2021 and 2022. On average, a drug shortage lasts for 1.5 years, however, over 15 ‘critical drug products’ have experienced a shortage of more than a decade. Furthermore, studies show how drug shortages have devastating impacts on hospitals, contributing to medication errors, adverse drug reactions, and delayed treatment.

A number of interrelated factors are determined to be the underlying causes of the drug shortages, including: economic drivers, increased demand, poor supply chain visibility, and an overreliance on foreign sources for raw materials. The report provides 6 recommendations to combat the problem:

  • Invest in domestic advanced manufacturing capabilities for critical generic drug products regularly in shortage
  • Conduct regular interagency medical supply chain risk assessments
  • Require manufacturers of life-supporting and life-sustaining drug products to report increased demand and export restrictions to the FDA
  • The FDA should take steps to ensure its supply chain data can be used to monitor supply chain vulnerabilities and conduct predictive modeling
  • Streamline private and public efforts to predict and mitigate potential supply chain vulnerabilities
  • Provide the FDA with mandatory recall authority for all drug products

For more information on topics related to this piece, check out HSDL’s In-Focus topic on Fentanyl and Opioids; or check out other resources related to drug shortages.

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