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June 25, 2024

Ongoing Drug Shortages Leave Patients Struggling

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Jan 21, 2024

A critical shortage of essential medications continues to severely impact patients across the country. Recent reports highlight increasing struggles to access common prescription drugs used to treat conditions like cancer, heart disease and ADHD.

Causes of the Shortages

Several key factors have converged to create this crisis:

  • Manufacturing and supply chain issues – A few power outages combined with contamination at major pharmaceutical plants have disrupted production. Getting raw ingredients and transporting finished drugs has also faced complications.
  • Limited alternative suppliers – Only a handful of companies produce certain generic medications with no equivalent substitutes. If one factory goes offline, the whole country feels it.
  • Low profit margins – Generic injectable drugs are far less lucrative for manufacturers compared to brand name medications still under patent. Less financial incentive makes this market segment vulnerable.

Patients Bearing the Brunt

With no end in sight for many backorders, doctors and patients have struggled to find solutions.

Cancer Treatment Delays

Chemotherapy drugs like cytarabine and carboplatin remain on allocation with limited stock. One leukemia patient described facing a 15 month wait for essential treatment.

Cancer hospitals across Florida have reported frequently changing protocol based on daily inventory. Oncologists attempt to prescribe alternate combination therapies, but it has proven extremely challenging.

Academic studies have correlated drug scarcity with higher mortality in cancer. Patients on disrupted regimens face a ticking clock and growing uncertainty.

Everyday Drugs Unavailable

From antibiotics and antidepressants to ADHD medications, pharmacists constantly seek substitutes for routine prescriptions.

A Jacksonville resident suffering chronic back pain recently spent days without his normal oxycodone regimen. With no alternatives available, he endured excruciating discomfort while doctors attempted to source anything similar.

One psychiatry practice reported a spike in ER transfers for individualschanging psychiatric medication too rapidly. Clinicians walk a fine line to avoid life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Drug Class % of drugs in shortage nationally
Generic Injectables Over 20%
ADHD Medications 15%
Antibiotics 13%
Antidepressants / Anti-anxiety 8%

When Will It End?

Health experts remain unsure if the shortages represent a temporary supply crunch or a new normal for the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA recently announced $80 million in new funding to identify risk factors and mitigate future bottlenecks.

The American Medical Association outlined proposals including increased reporting requirements for drug companies and requiring a 6 month notice before discontinuing production of essential medicines.

But manufacturers warn ceasing production of low margin generic injectables may make sense given rising costs and shrinking profitability. Patients with the most urgent need get prioritized, leaving some prescriptions backordered for over a year.

State health agencies continue pressing for access and affordability for residents. But stock outs persist on critical medications with no easy solutions on the horizon.

Looking Ahead

Patient advocacy groups have planned demonstrations at upcoming shareholder meetings for the major pharmacuetical producers. They aim to draw attention to the human cost of failing to adequately supply hospitals and pharmacies.

A congressional hearing next month may review policy actions like financial incentives or tax penalties to encourage increased manufacturing. But political battles over healthcare continue to stall most large scale proposals.

For now, doctors, pharmacists and patients themselves remain on the front lines of managing shortfalls. Seeking out alternatives, documenting cases unable to be treated, and sometimes even rationing limited drugs makes everyday operations deeply complex. And without major changes, access problems for essential medicines likely continue indefinitely.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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