Health Beat: Drug shortage update

Health Beat: Drug shortage update

ORLANDO, Fla. - Increasingly frequent drug shortages have occurred in the United States during the past decade, and the problem has hit almost every drug class.

In a recent report from the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, quality problems, like contamination, account for 46 percent of all drug shortages.

Only 54 percent of the members surveyed said they did have a drug shortage prevention program, and only half of those said that prevented a shortage. 

So, what is being done to help manage the problem?

Last year, Duke Medical Center adopted an approach based on models used in organ donations. For example, key drugs for cancer are distributed to patients with the greatest need and to those who could benefit most.

To help avoid shortages, Vanderbilt has increased its budget by $500,000 to build up its drug supply on hand.

A south Texas hospital system has opened its own multi-million dollar distribution center that allows it to buy drugs in bulk.

Health care professionals said that, as of now, the shortages that are the most concerning include electrolytes, like potassium phosphate, and oncology medications. The FDA has compiled complete list of drug shortages.

There do seem to be fewer shortages because, in 2012, there were 117 compared to 251 in 2011, but the focus now is on the types of medicines.

The FDA announced in late October a new proposal to try and head off more shortages of crucial medications.

Under the proposed rule, companies that make medically important prescription medicines would have to notify the FDA six months ahead of any changes that could disrupt the U.S. supply, including plans to discontinue a product or manufacturing changes that could slow production.

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