Record prescription drug shortages in the US will soon reach crisis point, say pharmacists and doctors, who spend hours each day searching for medication.
FDA recalls, production difficulties and corporate decisions to discontinue certain medications are cited as the main causes of the drug insufficiency.
Michelle Taymuree, Clinical Pharmacy Manager at Diablo Valley Oncology, California, said: “When we go to order, it's more common to see drugs in limited quantity, on back order or completely unavailable than it is to see drugs that are completely available”.
A growing number of patients in the US are reporting both delays and disruptions in their treatments. Some patients eventually receive their medications but others have had to switch regimens, and the health impact of these changes is unknown.
Medical professionals have no choice but to scramble for little supplies available or in some cases to delay potentially lifesaving treatments.
Maria Serpa, President of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists, stated: “Pharmacists have worked diligently to keep this from impacting physicians and patients. Patients shouldn't have to be the ones to pay”.
Alternative treatments have blunted the impact in some cases, but it’s only a matter of time before those options will diminish too.
The number of drugs in short supply currently lies at 190, compared to 70 drugs in 2006, according to the University of Utah Drug Information Service.
More than 90% of US hospitals reported a drug shortage in the past six months, and nearly 45% claimed at least 21 shortages during that time, reported the American Hospital Association in June.
Most medications in short supply are those used in hospitals, including generic injectables, cancer drugs, anaesthesia, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.
Click here to read other statistics relating to the drug shortages.