Drug Shortages in the US: Causes and What the FDA Is Doing to Prevent New Shortages

Erin Fox, PharmD, Michelle Wheeler, PharmD


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In This Article

Drug Shortage Data Are Key to Managing the Problem

Data regarding drug shortages are critical to preventing and managing the impacts. The University of Utah Drug Information Service (UUDIS) tracks national drug shortages, providing availability information and clinical management strategies to minimize the impact of shortages on patients. This information is available at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Drug Shortages Resource Center.[1,2] Figure 1 shows the annual rate of new drug shortages since 2001 and the marked drop in rate in 2012.[3] Between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012, a total of 204 new drug shortages were identified, down from 267 in 2011. This represents real progress; for the first time in five years, the dramatic increase in drug shortages has reversed. However, while the rate of new shortages is decreasing, the number of active and ongoing shortages is at an all-time high with 299 active drug shortages as of December 31, 2012 (Figure 2). New shortages are being prevented by FDA, but the shortages that have occurred in the past are taking a long time to resolve.

Figure 1.

National Drug Shortages: New Shortages by Year, 2001-2012. Data for 2012 are through Dec 31, 2012. Data collected by the University of Utah Drug Information Service.

Figure 2.

National Drug Shortages: Active Shortages by Quarter Since Q1-2010.
The number of active drug shortages at the end of each quarter. Q4-12 are data through Dec 31, 2012. Q1-10 are data for the period Jan-Mar 2010. Data collected by the University of Utah Drug Information Service.