Baltimore, MD—The U.S. is facing the highest number of drug shortages in almost a decade and is not far from the all-time high of 320, according to a report from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

The ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center was updated in July 2023 with the latest quarterly drug shortage statistics from the University of Utah Drug Information Service. ASHP surveyed a sample of its members to ascertain the severity and impact of ongoing shortages of select categories of drugs and also collected information about the management of drug shortages, the estimated impact on pharmacy budgets, and interest in manufacturer and product quality.

The results of the survey, which was conducted from June 23, 2023, through July 14, 2023, include responses from 1,123 participants who answered at least part of the online questionnaire.

The ASHP reported that more than 99% of respondents reported they are experiencing drug shortages, with most respondents categorizing the current state of drug shortages as either critically impactful (defined as rationing, delaying, or canceling treatments or procedures; 32%) or moderately impactful (63%).

Especially hard hit this summer have been antimicrobials, chemotherapy drugs, central nervous system agents, fluids and electrolytes, and hormone replacements.

In other findings, more than one-half of respondents (57%) said shortages of antineoplastic (chemotherapy) drugs were critically impactful. Most respondents who are involved in their department’s annual budgeting process estimated that drug shortages add between 5% and 20% to the budgets. With 73% of respondents estimating between a 6% to 20% increase in their drug budget, 71% estimated between a 0% to 15% increase in their labor budget.

In addition, 87% of respondents who are involved with purchasing decisions rated manufacturer and product quality as very important, with 59% stating they would prefer buying products from manufacturers that meet a predefined quality standard. That would potentially address one of the major root causes of drug shortages. In fact, 85% said they would be willing to spend 5% or more above their annual generic injectable drug budget to buy from manufacturers that achieve quality recognition.

Nearly all (93%) of the survey respondents were pharmacists, with 5% pharmacy technicians, 1% pharmacy residents, and 1% other. Most of the participants (88%) worked in a hospital or health system, with 6% in an ambulatory clinic or similar setting.

The survey authors pointed out that managing drug shortages is a labor-intensive process. “Operational and clinical drug shortage management strategies can divert time and resources away from clinical care. An analysis published in 2019 estimated that the annual labor cost of drug shortages to U.S. hospitals is $359 million,” the survey added. “Purchasing alternative package sizes or concentrations, sourcing from alternative suppliers, and purchasing products from 503B outsourcing facilities can also increase spending on drug products.”

Among drugs facing shortages are corticosteroids, oral ibuprofen and amoxicillin, injectable opioids, products used in medical emergencies, and stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to other sources.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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