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‘Things are bad’: Conference speaker focuses attention on rising drug shortages

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Daily Herald | May 16, 2024

Jenny Kane, Associated Press

Adderall XR capsules are displayed Feb. 24, 2023. Prescriptions for ADHD treatments surged among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to fuel lingering shortages that are frustrating parents and doctors.

Drug shortages are at an all-time high, with 323 medications running low.

Erin Fox, associate chief pharmacy officer at University of Utah Health, spoke about the scarcity during the 79th annual Ogden Surgical-Medical Society Conference, held at Weber State University this week.

Fox said since the University of Utah Drug Information Service began tracking shortages in 2001, this is the first time mostly generic life-saving and other types of drugs have been in short supply.

Some of those drugs include life-saving chemotherapy medications with few alternative options and those to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other shortages include generic sterile injectable medications, oxytocin, fentanyl, semaglutide for diabetes and obesity, lidocaine, antimicrobials, high blood pressure medications, the antibiotic amoxicillin and saline fluids given in hospital settings.

“If it seems things are bad — they are,” Fox said. “We’ve had over 300 active and ongoing shortages for over a year now, and that’s very wearing and it can cause harm to the patient.”

Fox said many of the shortages stem from a problem at a manufacturing facility such as equipment breaking down or sterility problems. Other reasons include high demand for certain drugs and even decisions made by drug manufacturers themselves when they decide they can make a greater profit off a different medication.

“It’s a tough problem and we need greater transparency,” Fox said. “When we hear of a shortage, we share the information with the (Food and Drug Administration), but manufacturers are not required to publicly disclose the true cause of the shortage.”

Fox said if the FDA would require more transparency, it could help solve some of the ongoing challenges, but that’s just not the case right now. She said companies don’t have to disclose the list of drugs made in a factory, the raw ingredient source and other details.

For now, if your medication is on the shortage list, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about alternative options.


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