FDA chimes in on albuterol shortage

In a March 8 Twitter thread, the FDA acknowledged it's aware of a potential drug supply disruption after Gurnee, Ill.-based Akorn Operating Co. closed in late February. 

The FDA clarified that the ongoing shortage is of a specific albuterol inhalation solution used in nebulizers, typically in hospitals, for patients having trouble breathing, not in inhalers at the consumer level. The agency said it is working with manufacturers to ease the shortage and "reiterated that outsourcing facilities may compound the specific product."

"It's also important to note that these products are manufactured by private companies and the FDA cannot require a pharmaceutical company to make a drug, make more of a drug, or change the distribution of a drug," the FDA tweeted. 

Amid the supply hiccup, some hospitals are rationing supply.

Dayton, Ohio-based Miami Valley Hospital is saving albuterol for high-acuity cases during an ongoing shortage of the drug, which is used to treat asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia, according to NBC affiliate WDTN

"We've kind of held back on using it as much for those acute conditions to save it for those folks with asthma that we really need to use it for in emergency situations," Joseph Allen, MD, regional medical director for the hospital's parent system, Premier Health, told the news station. "Previously, if they came in and they were wheezing, they looked a little bit kind of on edge, we'd go ahead and hit them with albuterol and get them taken care of. But now we have to kind of question that or think of other things that we can use."

Dr. Allen said Miami Valley Hospital's albuterol reserves have recently slimmed down amid a national shortage of 0.5 milliliter albuterol, which hospitals use in nebulizers to help patients breathe. 

Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Fla., is also squeezing its supply, according to Angela Folger, PharmD, the hospital's pharmacy director. 

Dr. Folger recently told The Washington Post current drug shortages are "the worst it's ever been in [her] almost 20-year career."

One drug company, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, told Becker's it is making albuterol as fast as possible, but Nephron did not quantify this statement.

The FDA said it "continues to explore all available regulatory levers to help assure supply — including exercising discretion for potential temporary importation by foreign suppliers."

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