Currently, drug manufacturers are not required to notify or provide an explanation to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if a drug is expected to come in short supply. Some lawmakers are looking to change that. But for the time being, some possible reasons for drug shortages may include increased demand, a shortage of raw materials and manufacturing delays.
Recent crackdowns on safety in production of some drugs can slow or delay production indefinitely. Raw materials suppliers can unexpectedly stop shipping their commodity, leaving manufacturers scrambling. Additionally, consolidation among pharmaceutical companies, leaving fewer drug manufacturers, and lack of competitive advantage, for instance when a drug starts to be made in a generic offering, can add fuel to the fire. In this respect, a manufacturer of an older name brand drug might abandon their production in favor of a newer drug, one that is more profitable for them. While tougher safety rules and generic formulations may be good for consumers, it can cause glitches in manufacturing, as producers work to increase quality and then have to catch up to meet demand.
The result has caused some holes in hospital system formularies, which takes time and a lot of communication among hospital staff (doctors, nurses and pharmacists) to fix. And sometimes the fixes available aren’t cheap, as one hospital system in Illinois found out when it had to purchase vials of one drug, which used to cost less than $7 from their primary supplier who ran out of the drug, at over $11 from a secondary supplier.
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