Drug shortages worst since tracking began in 2001

April 11, 2024

The number of U.S. drug shortages has reached a new all-time high, according to new data released by a top pharmacist trade group.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has been tracking domestic drug shortages since 2001. The group tracks national drug shortages quarterly, and the most recent update from March found there are 323 active drug shortages in the U.S.

The previous record documented by ASHP was 320 shortages in 2014.

The majority of manufacturers — 60 percent — have not said what the reasons are behind the shortages, the ASHP report noted. Reasons cited by manufacturers included supply and demand, manufacturing issues, business decisions and raw material issues.

“All drug classes are vulnerable to shortages. Some of the most worrying shortages involve generic sterile injectable medications, including cancer chemotherapy drugs and emergency medications stored in hospital crash carts and procedural areas,” ASHP said in a statement.

“Ongoing national shortages of therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also remain a serious challenge for clinicians and patients.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a set of recommendations to address drug shortages that included polices suggested by the ASHP. The group said it was pleased to see its recommendations included but that the department had missed the mark.

“Unfortunately, the HHS proposal misses the mark by suggesting penalties against hospitals that do not adopt HHS-required inventory and purchasing practices,” ASHP said. “Hospitals are often hit hard by drug shortages. We are deeply concerned that HHS proposes to impose financial penalties on hospitals that may be least able to take steps, such as investing in buffer inventories, to prevent shortages.”