Drug shortages hit 23-year high: ASHP

The number of ongoing drug shortages in the U.S. is at its highest since 2001 — when the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists began tracking data. There are now 323 medications in low supply. 

The reasons for 3 in 5 shortages are unknown, the ASHP said in a report released April 11. Supply and demand are cited for 14% of shortages, manufacturing problems for 12%, business decisions for 12% and raw material issues for 2%. 

"Basic and life-saving products are in short supply, including oxytocin, Rho(D) immune globulin, standard of care chemotherapy, pain and sedation medications and ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] medications," the ASHP said. 

The top five drug classes in shortages are central nervous system agents, antimicrobials, hormone agents, chemotherapies, and fluid and electrolyte therapies. 

Recent legal settlements and Drug Enforcement Administration quota changes have caused more supply issues for controlled substances, which account for 12% of active shortages. 

Between late 2014 and fall 2015, the number of ongoing drug shortages fell from 301 to 190 before plateauing through 2017. A steady growth happened until mid-2019, when drug shortages remained at about 275 until 2021. Since late 2021, the number of ongoing shortages has increased from 220 to 323. 

The ASHP said the increased workload needed to mitigate these shortages is exacerbating pharmacy staffing issues. 

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