25 numbers on drug shortages

Drug shortages are at 10-year high so far in 2023, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Recently, multiple cancer drugs have gone into shortage, and a U.S.-based drugmaker's closure in late February scattered dozens of drug resupply dates. 

"Shortages of local anesthetics and basic hospital drugs, albuterol solution, common oral and ophthalmic products, and ADHD treatments are affecting large numbers of organizations and patients," ASHP said. "Chemotherapy drugs, often without alternatives, are increasingly in short supply and have returned to the list of top-five drug classes affected by shortage.

"Workload required to manage shortages, including work to change pharmacy automation and electronic health records is difficult in the face of staffing shortages," the organization added.

Here are 25 numbers detailing the scope of drug shortages, according to the ASHP and a March report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:

1. Since 2001, the number of new drug shortages has ranged between 58 (in 2004) and 267 (in 2011). There was a downward trend of new drug shortages from 2018 through 2021 before the number of new shortages rose to 160 in 2022. So far in 2023, there have been 47 new drug shortages reported. 

2. Besides 2019, injectable drugs have made at least a slight majority in the percentage of new drug shortages for the last 20 years. The percentages flicker between 50 percent and 70 percent

3. The first quarter of 2023 marked the highest number of ongoing shortages by quarter since early 2018, with 301 active shortages as of March 31. 

4. New drug shortages increased 30 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year, and the Senate committee said this poses health and national security risks. The committee released the report before a March 22 meeting with pharmaceutical supply experts. 

5. Thirty-nine new drug shortages have been reported by the ASHP, according to its online tracker

6. Central nervous system drugs, such as antidepressants, account for 52 shortages. There are also 35 antimicrobials, 30 fluids/elytes, 27 hormones and 23 chemo medications in short supply.

7. When it comes to why a shortage happens, 56 percent of the time, drug manufacturers will not provide a reason or say it is unknown. Other reasons for the breakdown are supply and demand 19 percent of the time, manufacturing 18 percent, business decision 5 percent, regulatory issue 1 percent and raw material issue 1 percent

8. From 2020 to 2022, the number of hormone drug shortages has slightly increased from the low 20s to mid 20s; electrolytes on back order spiked from the 10s to the 30s; and cardiovascular treatments in shortage lowered from about 30 to 20

9. More than 15 critical drug products have been in shortage for more than a decade, and 20 have been in shortage since at least 2015.

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