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Medical News and Perspectives
February 13, 2013

Despite Curbing New Drug Shortages, Shortfall of Drugs a Persistent Problem

JAMA. 2013;309(6):532-533. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.216795

Although efforts by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reduced the number of new drug shortages in 2012, the year ended with active shortages of 299 drugs, according to the University of Utah Drug Information Service.

The number of drug shortages in the United States has spiked in recent years, with about twice as many shortages occurring in 2012 than 2010. Injectable medications and anti-infective drugs have been especially hard hit by shortages.

“On a weekly basis, [health care workers] are dealing with very significant shortages of important drugs,” explained Marc H. Scheetz, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacy practice at Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy, in Downers Grove, Ill. Scheetz, Milena (Griffith) McLaughlin, PharmD (an infectious disease pharmacotherapy fellow), and colleagues published a review of anti-infective shortages in 2012 (Griffith MM et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2012;54[5]:684-691). Anti-infective drugs are often “irreplaceable,” said Scheetz, who said that he has heard anecdotal reports of patients being harmed or even dying because the preferred drug for treating their condition was unavailable. Scheetz and his colleagues are trying to collect reports of patient harm caused by shortages, to better quantify this problem (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/antimicrobialshortages).

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