US Drug Shortages Reach All-Time High Since 2001: Report

Empty Pill Packs/iStock, Evgen_Prozhyrko

Pictured: Empty pill packs tossed together in a pile/iStock, Evgen_Prozhyrko

Drug shortages in the U.S. are at an all-time high, according to the latest statistics from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The data reveals active and ongoing shortages stand at 323 drugs as of the end of the first quarter of 2024, the highest number since the organization began tracking such information in 2001. 

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) reported both basic and life-saving products are on the list, including chemotherapy, pain and sedation medications and ADHD medicines. Exploding interest in GLP-1 injectables for weight loss and diabetes has also caused widespread shortages as supply simply cannot keep up with demand.  

The drug classes ASHP’s data shows the highest shortages between 2019 and 2023 were antibiotics, chemo, central nervous system and hormone therapies. 

According to the ASHP, 60% of the shortages were for unknown reasons, or the manufacturer would not provide an explanation. However, supply and demand, manufacturing and business decisions were split statistically in the low-percentage teens for reasons for shortages provided by drug manufacturers. Only 2% of shortages were reported due to raw material issues. 

In February 2024, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report pointing to continued challenges for the FDA in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and staff vacancies. While the office acknowledged the FDA is working to address these issues, the report also stated, “GAO has had long-standing concerns about FDA’s ability to oversee the increasingly global drug supply chain.” 

The GAO stated in its report that of the over 4,800 manufacturers providing drugs for Americans, 58% of them were overseas as of 2022. In November 2023, an Intas Pharmaceuticals plant in India was flagged by the agency for a number of quality issues. Import of its chemo drug, cisplatin, and others manufactured there have been halted to the U.S. by the FDA. 

Multiple doses of Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, its diabetes-indicated GLP-1, will be in short supply through April 2024. This was not a surprise as the World Health Organization previously issued a warning about GLP-1 shortages in January 2024. Lilly’s current shortage impacts the higher dose strengths. Its competitor Novo Nordisk has also struggled with shortages due to high demand since Wegovy was approved by the FDA. 

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at kate.goodwin@biospace.com and on LinkedIn

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