Alexandria, VA—Drug shortages are continuing in the U.S., according to the latest survey of community pharmacists.

In fact, 98% of respondents to a National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) poll said they were affected.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCPA has surveyed pharmacy owners and managers about a range of issues, including staffing concerns, supply chain issues, inflation, or other economic pressures. The latest survey, which was conducted between October 19 through 31, 2022, sought to gauge the effect of drug shortages. The survey had 330 independent pharmacy owners and managers responding from a poll of about 8,000.

For example, 89% of survey respondents said they are having problems stocking Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. That is up from the August survey, when 64% of respondents stated that they had trouble obtaining the medicine.

In addition, almost 66% of respondents also reported that they are struggling to obtain the antibiotic amoxicillin. The FDA has acknowledged “some intermittent supply interruptions” and has warned that it is in short supply.

“We’re heavily reliant on foreign countries, some of which can be adversarial, for many of our pharmaceuticals. And the supply chain issues that resulted from the pandemic have not been fully resolved,” stated NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey. “Community pharmacies are the last link in the supply chain, and the only one that deals with patients directly. If there’s a disruption anywhere between the manufacturer and the patient, it affects the entire health care system and community pharmacists are the ones helping patients figure out their options.”

According to a regularly updated dashboard published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, drug shortages are a reoccurring problem in the U.S. healthcare system and began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. “While many factors affect supply chain complications, the overriding one is that the country’s pharmaceutical system operates on a ‘just-in-time’ system rather than one that predicts and prevents issues.”

CIDRAP noted that 46% (71 of 156) critical acute drugs were described as being in short supply by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). By the FDA’s definition, it is only 23% (36 of 156 critical acute drugs).

Drugs to treat COVID-19 also are in short supply. More than one-half of 40 drugs considered “critical” are hard to obtain, according to ASHP, and 38% according to the FDA.

Overall, 71 drugs are currently in shortage by ASHP standards as of the end of November. The group reported that 168 new drug shortages were identified in 2021, and 80 were resolved that year. ASHP defines a drug shortage as “a supply issue that affects how the pharmacy prepares or dispenses a drug product or influences patient care when prescribers must use an alternative agent.” This data is largely reliant on health-system pharmacist reports.

The FDA’s definition is less broad. It defines a drug shortage as “a period of time when the demand or projected demand for the drug within the U.S. exceeds its supply.” Its data is largely reliant on manufacturer reports.

The FDA stated that 36 drugs are currently in shortage by those standards as of the end of November, 41 new drug shortages were reported in 2021, and 60 drug shortages were resolved in 2020.

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