2011 Drug Shortages Soar to Record Highs

Posted 04 January 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

Last year was a banner year for drug shortages, according to information just released by the University of Utah Drug Information Service.

267 medications experienced shortages during 2011, topping the previous year's record of 211, and exceeding 2004 levels by 460%.

The issue has attracted the attention of both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and President Barack Obama.  The FDA has launched a drug shortages program to work with manufacturers and providers to ease problems and bring products back to market faster, and has advocated for enhanced authority to mandate drug shortage reporting.  President Obama released an Executive Order on 31 October that orders the FDA to create an early-warning system.

Neither effort seems to have done much to solve the problem.  Erin Fox, manager of the University of Utah's Drug Information Service, says that the current shortages are likely to continue based on current trends. 

The shortages have primarily been the result of manufacturing issues, such as quality and sterility issues, and low profit margins for drugs with only a single source as the result of consolidation in the generic pharmaceutical industry.  Medicare price controls, too, have been implicated in the shortages.

More FAQ's, including contact information for the FDA's Drug Shortage Program (DSP), can be found on the FDA's website.



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