Widespread drug scarcities throughout the United States are causing considerable delays in administering crucial treatments that hold the potential to save countless lives across the nation.
Lawmakers in Congress and officials at the White House are clambering in an urgent effort to tackle the deficit in prescription medications, encompassing a wide range from pain management drugs to essential cancer treatments.
“Hospitals all across the country, on a regular basis — sometimes weekly — have to review which drugs are in short supply or not available that week.” Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) said in an interview with MSNBC.
The impact of the scarcity is particularly severe within the realm of generic drugs, which constitute nearly 90% of all prescriptions in the United States. Determining the precise count of affected medications varies depending on the source consulted.
A Senate report released towards the end of the previous year indicated a peak of 295 ongoing drug shortages in the U.S., while the FDA's latest assessment in March asserts the figure to be 130. The American Society of Health, on the other hand, reports a total of 301 drug shortages during the first quarter of 2023.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveals that on average, drug shortages persist for approximately 18 months. However, there are cases where shortages have endured for an astonishing period of over 15 years, as per the agency's data.
Among the medications experiencing scarcity, a range of vital drugs can be found. These include Adderall, Tylenol, several antibiotics such as amoxicillin, intravenous saline mixtures, and nearly two dozen types of anti-cancer drugs.
Of particular concern is the last category mentioned, as it presents a pressing issue due to the limited availability of alternative treatment options for patients. The shortage of specific anti-cancer medications has resulted in significant delays or interruptions in chemotherapy treatments for breast cancers, ovarian cancers, lung cancers, bladder cancers, and certain types of leukemia. Tragically, these disruptions have at times led to fatal outcomes.