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Drug Shortages Harm Patients

Jan 08, 2018

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

ASHP AND OUR COLLEAGUES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH have been leaders in providing ASHP members, policymakers, and the entire healthcare community with timely information on drug shortages for nearly 15 years. We have also worked hand in hand with numerous stakeholders to find solutions to help minimize or prevent drug shortages. These efforts have included passing federal legislation and holding numerous multidisciplinary summits on drug shortages, with the most recent stakeholder summit taking place on November 6, 2017, at ASHP headquarters.

Today, although progress has been made, drug shortages are still significantly threatening the ability of ASHP members and their healthcare colleagues to provide care to patients. It is unacceptable in the United States that drug shortages can happen as frequently as they do — and certainly not acceptable for them to harm patients. Regardless, the problem persists and grows, with the most recent being the severe shortage of small-volume parenteral (SVP) solutions.

Soon after we became aware that an SVP shortage had emerged, ASHP and the University of Utah released a resource on the conservation and management of SVPs. This resource has proven useful to ASHP members and other providers, and its use has been encouraged by the FDA Commissioner.

We have also been working on a daily basis with the FDA, Congress, and numerous other concerned organizations to find solutions for all drug shortages and advocate for needed changes. Further, we are working to keep the entire shortage situation on the radar of the media. ASHP also immediately conducted a survey to better understand the magnitude of SVP and other shortages, and to use that survey data in our advocacy and media outreach on behalf of our members and their patients.

ASHP believes that it is time for Congress to get involved to stop this threat to safe and effective patient care. ASHP recently led the development of a congressional call to action with other key stakeholders. In that letter, ASHP and our partners asked Congress to examine the following questions to address the underlying causes of shortages:

  • Should manufacturers be required to disclose to the medical community their manufacturing sites and the products produced in those sites, in terms of volume and percentage of product line?
  • Should sole-source products be allowed to be produced in a single plant?
  • Should there be redundancy in production of critical products?
  • Should the FDA identify a list of “critical medications” that would require manufacturers to develop a reasonable contingency plan in the event of a production interruption or shutdown?
  • What incentives could be developed for other manufacturers to increase production when drug shortages occur?
  • What can be done to determine the best locations of pharmaceutical plants in addition to ensuring that backup systems can quickly accommodate needs in the event of a disaster, given there are several types of natural disasters that can occur?

We strongly believe that the current drug shortage situation is unacceptable and unsustainable. It threatens harm to patients, wastes valuable healthcare resources, causes great uncertainty, and disrupts the healthcare system. Congress should not wait to take action on drug shortages until the current crisis worsens even further. The time for leadership and action is now.

ASHP will continue to be the leader on this critical patient care and patient safety issue until we and our partners find solutions that ensure that no patient is ever affected as a result of a drug shortage. Please contact your member of Congress through ASHP’s call to action, and please continue to review ASHP’s website and other communications for updates. Also, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need assistance from our drug shortages staff team. ASHP is looking for both short-term relief to current shortages and long-term solutions. Therefore, fixing the drug shortage problem will remain a top priority for ASHP until meaningful and systemwide solutions are identified and implemented.

Thanks so much for being a member of ASHP, and for everything that you do for your patients.


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  • Kaiser kills seniors

    I was almost raised in Puerto Rico my father to manage Eli Lilly production in 1950’s. How many drug manufacturers located in Puerto Rico since NO electricity for production. Insanity removing pain medication production because unlawful gangs steal drugs to sell. Pain patients unable to obtain doctor to write pain medication that California law requires. Instead more expensive treatment hospitalizations patients no other avenue for out patient treatment therefore patient’s self admit until to receive out patient treatment. INSANITY how U.S. manages healthcare that costs 50% more than other top countries.