4 pressing drug shortages: ASHP

Weeks after a U.S. drugmaker closed up shop, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists marked four drugs for being in key shortages. Three are connected to the shutdown of Gurnee, Ill.-based Akorn Operating Co.

1. Methotrexate is a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers. As of March 14, 11 methotrexate solutions are unavailable or in limited supply. 

"Shortages of drugs used in chemotherapy can be disruptive for patients, especially for patients in the middle of long cycles of therapy," the ASHP told Becker's in an emailed news release. "The oral form of methotrexate used to treat inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis is not impacted by this shortage."

Access to some forms has also been rocky for months because one of its side effects is inducing an abortion.

2. Albuterol: One of the few manufacturers of albuterol, which is used in nebulizers to help patients breathe, closed in February, meaning its resupply dates may be pushed back. Albuterol is also in shortage because of increased demand from the tripledemic — when there's a rise in COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza cases. 

3. Lorazepam "is used to treat anxiety and insomnia and sometimes to relieve nausea in patients undergoing cancer treatments," the ASHP said. "Some manufacturers report having trouble keeping up with demand following the recent shutdown of Akorn (Operating Co.), which produced this and a substantial number of other generic drugs."

4. Physostigmine: This is an emergency medicine to reverse anesthesia medications after surgery. It also is used to treat overdoses of some drugs, including antihistamines, antidepressants, some Parkinson's drugs and antipsychotics. There are alternatives but "healthcare providers have been asked to reserve supplies for certain severe cases where physostigmine is the only option," according to the ASHP.

"Akorn was the only supplier of this generic drug," the organization said, "so even though its use is limited, the impact could be significant."

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