Tackling Low Medication Supplies
and Disruptions in the Supply Chain
Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
Article 2: Drug Shortages (1/2)
Drug shortages are becoming increasingly prevalent, affecting hundreds of medications, and are considered a public health crisis across the globe – significantly impacting patient safety, drug therapy, and how we access and manage care. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) both monitor and track drug shortages. They are considered a central resource for information on drug shortages in the United States. However, each has a slightly different definition of drug shortages – which ends up influencing the quantity and severity of the shortages reported. Therefore, it is common to see differences in the number of drug shortages reported by each organization.
The FDA defines a drug shortage as “A period of time when the demand or projected demand for a medically necessary drug in the United States exceeds its supply.”(1,2) Whereas, ASHP defines a drug shortage as “a supply issue that affects how the pharmacy prepares or dispenses a drug product or influences patient care when prescribers must use an alternative agent.” (1,3) The intended audience differs between these two agencies. ASHP and the University of Utah Drug Information Service (which tracks drug shortages)’s intended audience are healthcare providers, whereas the FDA is the public.(1-3) Individuals should consider checking both databases to get the latest information – as one shortage may be on one database and not the other. ASHP does note potential resupply date (when available), which manufacturer may have the product, and what specific products are available in the database. International agencies have documented the need to assess the extent and depth of this problem on a global scale. Information regarding vaccine shortages can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.(4)
Drug shortages continue to remain high in volume and duration.(5) The implications of drug shortages are felt across the board – affecting all elements of health systems, patients, and their families. While the current COVID-19 crisis has caused considerable strain on the pharmaceutical supply chain, it had already been experiencing significant drug shortages and issues for years.
Information is constantly evolving in the healthcare space. Responsible effort was made to provide accurate information from reliable sources at the time of publication. Information provided in the articles and website is done so in good faith; however, no liabilities for the information (such as errors or omission) exist. The reader should make their own assessment and determination of how they will use the information provided. The author and publisher provide no guarantees of any specific outcome or consequence as a result of utilizing recommendations or information offered in this article. Readers are advised to continuously check the latest updates, practices and guidelines.
1. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Contrasting the FDA (CDER) and ASHP Drug Shortage Websites: What Are the Differences? https://www.ashp.org/Drug-Shortages/Current-Shortages/FDA-and-ASHP-Shortage-Parameters
2. United States Food and Drug Administration. CDER Conversation: FDA’s drug shortages prevention strategies. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/news-events-human-drugs/cder-conversation-fdas-drug-shortages-prevention-strategies
3. ASHP. Drug Shortages FAQs. https://www.ashp.org/Drug-Shortages/Current-Shortages/Drug-Shortages-FAQs
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Vaccine Shortages & Delays. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/clinical-resources/shortages.html
5. ASHP. Drug Shortages Statistics. https://www.ashp.org/Drug-Shortages/Shortage-Resources/Drug-Shortages-Statistics
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Dr. Rola Kaakeh
CEO, Salus Vitae Group