Officials take steps to tackle drug shortages

The number of ongoing drug shortages has been rising. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), nearly 200 drug shortages occurred in 2018, with even more expected by the end of 2019.

Even though the impact from drug shortages is severe and far reaching, the problem has persisted. But officials in Washington are finally stepping up.

Sens Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the Mitigating Emergency Drug Shortages (MEDS) Act, a bill that aims to improve communications to pharmacists about drug shortages and alleviate the risks of drug shortages on patient safety and the nation’s health care system.

The legislation will give FDA additional authority to prevent drug shortages while at the same time digging into market-based solutions to ensure a stable supply of medications. This includes requiring manufacturers to disclose the root causes and expected duration of shortages; providing incentives to manufacturers to enter the market for drugs in shortage; and requiring them to develop contingency plans and to list contract manufacturers and active pharmaceutical ingredients in their reporting requirements, among many other recommendations.

APhA has expressed its support for the bill, along with many organizations, including ASHP and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

Simultaneously, FDA issued a report, Drug Shortages: Root Causes and Potential Solutions, intended to help prevent and lessen future drug shortages. FDA said the report “attempts to identify root causes and offer recommendations for government and industry based on insights gleaned from stakeholders in the private and public sectors.”