Drug shortages ease but some will stay longer

The drug shortage crisis in America appears to be easing with a big drop in new reports of short supply of vital medications, including those used to treat cancer and other illnesses. NBC News reports about 33% decrease in drug shortage through August, as compared to last year, with 123 reports of new drugs in short supply. There were 267 drugs in short supplies last year, marking a record for drug shortages in America.

Valerie Jensen, associate director the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) ascribed the improvements to efforts made by the agency after President Barack Obame issued an executive order to urge drugmakers to file reports about potential shortages early so that the agency can work on them earlier. For example, when drugmaker Hospira overfilled some syringes of 15 widely-used drugs, increasing potential for overdose. Instead of pulling all of the potentially affected devices, contributing to ongoing drug shortages, the FDA and Hospira issued warning letters to health care providers, advising them about the potential problem.

"These were drugs that were medically necessary," Jensen said. "We worked with the company to make sure that the overfill lot was recalled."

However shortages of drugs used for basic care such as propofol for anesthesia and morphine for pain relief are here to stay, according to experts tracking the problem. Jensen noted that half of all shortages are contributed by manufacturing issues, which include those that affect drug safety.

"The trouble is that the problems are longer-lasting," Jensen said.

According to FiercePharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Sandoz, the generics division of Novartis, and Boehringer Ingelheim's Bedford Laboratories suffered a loss of 30% of their capacity when they were expected by the FDA to upgrade their manufacturing.

New problems lead to new drug shortages. Problems the FDA found in July at a Sanofi Pasteur plant in Canada has led to a shortage of tuberculosis vaccine BCG and possible shortage of the bladder cancer drug ImmuCyst.

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Leading biopharmaceutical companies will be sharing their ideas and concerns at the conference Pharma Supply Chain World Asia in Singapore at 6th annual BioPharma Asia 2013. Contact Rebecca Koh at +65 6322 2725 or rebecca.koh@terrapinn.com to find out more about it! Visit our website here.