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Commercially Driven Spike in Drug Shortages Endangers Lives

Posted on Jan 8, 2016

Rosser321 / (CC BY 2.0)

Emergency room doctors are reaching for medicines that aren’t there after drug shortages jumped more than fivefold between 2008 and 2014. And experts say drug companies are to blame.

Shannon Firth reports at MedPage Today:

About one-third of the 1,798 documented drug shortages from 2001 to 2014 were for drugs used in emergency medicine. Of those emergency department drug shortages, about half were described as “lifesaving interventions” or “drugs used as a direct intervention for high-acuity conditions,” according to Pines and colleagues. That’s 18% of all shortages.

And, for 32 of the drugs in shortage for lifesaving or high-acuity issues, there are no substitutes. […]

Generic sterile injectable drugs had the most access issues, and shortages were most prevalent in three areas: infectious disease, analgesia, and toxicology. […]

[Jesse Pines, MD, MBA, director of the Office for Clinical Practice Innovation and professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences] noted that heightened FDA scrutiny may have contributed to manufacturing delays and caused some products to be discontinued. But, he said, “basically a lot of these companies are stopping producing these medicines primarily for business reasons.” […]

Mark Reiter, MD, MBA, president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and an emergency physician in Nashville, Tenn., said the reason emergency medicine is so deeply affected by drug shortages is because they rely more heavily on generic drugs than other departments.

Pharmaceutical companies profit more from branded products and reserve few resources for generics.

“I think the FDA thing is a minor issue. I think the real issue is economics.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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